Women Engineers: A National Study of Attrition and Persistence.

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Category: Psychology of Work

Download the video transcript.

The study, conducted by Dr. Romila Singh and myself, reveals some of the challenges that women in engineering have to confront in their careers.

Through the Center for the Study of the Workplace we are sharing with you the full report. An extract of our Executive Summary follows:

Women comprise more than 20% of engineering school graduates, but only 11% of practicing engineers are women, despite decades of academic, federal, and employer interventions to address this gender gap. Project on Women Engineers’ Retention (POWER) was designed to understand factors related to women engineers’ career decisions. Over 3,700 women who had graduated with an engineering degree responded to our survey and indicated that the workplace climate was a strong factor in their decisions to not enter engineering after college or to leave the profession of engineering. Workplace climate also helped to explain current engineers’ satisfaction and intention to stay in engineering.

Key findings

Some women left the field, some never entered and many are currently engineers:

Those who left:

  • Nearly half said they left because of working conditions, too much travel, lack of advancement or low salary.
  • One-in-three women left because they did not like the workplace climate, their boss or the culture.
  • One-in-four left to spend time with family.
  • Those who left were not different from current engineers in their interests, confidence in their abilities, or the positive outcomes they expected from performing engineering related tasks.

Those who didn’t enter engineering after graduation:

  • A third said it was because of their perceptions of engineering as being inflexible or the engineering workplace culture as being non-supportive of women.
  • Thirty percent said they did not pursue engineering after graduation because they were no longer interested in engineering or were interested in another field.
  • Many said they are using the knowledge and skills gained in their education in a number of other fields.

Work decisions of women currently working in Engineering:

  • Women’s decisions to stay in engineering are best predicted by a combination of psychological factors and factors related to the organizational climate.
  • Women’s decisions to stay in engineering can be influenced by key supportive people in the organization, such as supervisors and co-workers. Current women engineers who worked in companies that valued and recognized their contributions and invested substantially in their training and professional development, expressed greatest levels of satisfaction with their jobs and careers.
  • Women engineers who were treated in a condescending, patronizing manner, and were belittled and undermined by their supervisors and co-workers were most likely to want to leave their organizations.
  • Women who considered leaving their companies were also very likely to consider leaving the field of engineering altogether.

 

51 Responses - Hide

    • These findings are right-on and not surprising from my perspective. Since I've left school in 1992, I've consistently been denied professional development opportunities offered to my male counterparts. I can deal with lower pay, as long as I feel my needs are being met elsewhere (training and being appreciated for example). Every company from which I've departed has deprived me of one of these items. I am still in the engineering field, but the environment is very stressful. I'm still here because I'm single with no kids and I care greatly about my client and their needs. My immediate management is attentive and the reason why I am still with my current employer, but my supervisor is unable to provide complete support due to out-of-touch, indifferent and uncaring Division management. However, this problem is systemic and not indicative of gender.
    • Stephanie
    • March 11, 2011
    • This study is great confirmation of what I've dedicated my time to: helping women start their OWN tech-based companies. These great minds need to stay in the engineering field and if current corporate climate doesn't work, create your own! So powerful. In the words of Mr. Kauffman: "Don't take a job, MAKE a job." http://www.ActivateProgram.org
    • Julie Lenzer Kirk
    • March 15, 2011
    • I might be interesting to do the same study with men and compare the results. That might help better define which are "gender" issues as opposed the general engineerining career issues.
    • Art Brody
    • March 16, 2011
    • Was a similar survey done of males who left the field? Apart from the "family" part, those seem very familar to me as well
    • Phil Northcott
    • March 16, 2011
    • This report/study only confirmed what I long suspected and in my most recent years experienced. Aren't we sick of hearing " you are such a smart woman but...". Why isn't this one of the discussions at next years IEEE conference? I recently had a very similar conversation with my immediate supervisor. There are times I tell my coutnerparts.. "I do not have a wife at home". I work in a particular segment of Electrical Engineering that sees even fewer women because of the inherent "dangers" of working in the "field". I no longer do hard core engineering but am still well within my discipline. It is painful to see that after this many years of liberation we are still not being treated equally. So, much respect to the center for having the guts to pursue and complete the study, now lets find a way to highlight the findings so that the companies we work for can become aware...afterall, while women are naturally intuitve most men aren't so they really may not be aware of this.
    • Tracey E
    • March 16, 2011
    • "Nearly half said they left because of working conditions, too much travel, lack of advancement or low salary...." Not sure I understand this study (or at least the Executive Summary) - Do we have any reason to believe that the #s are any different for men & women? In other words, do men have the same level of attrition as women, for similar reasons? If so, this has nothing to do with women in STEM, but is an engineering work environment issue.
    • timbo
    • March 16, 2011
    • @ Tracey: "afterall, while women are naturally intuitve most men aren't so they really may not be aware of this." I find it ironic you used the word "intuitive" and the above part of your comment is far from it. Atta way to keep it unbiased.
    • Jake
    • March 16, 2011
    • I think, this whole issue is overblown. The bottom line is, that there should be no discrimination against women in the engineering field based on their gender. That doesn't mean that there should be no discrimination at all. But the same discrimination should apply to men as well. If the field is leveled, than we just have to accept the stats that women are different from men. Big surprise. Why do we think that 50% of all engineers should be women? It seems like an unjustified preconception.
    • Zoltan M.
    • March 16, 2011
    • This report points out that women still haven't got equal opportunity at work place. Take myself as example, I want to go back engineering field with low salary but I am forced to leave it due to working environment and family. Although many male engineers did not have issue to work with female co-workers, they do prefer male co-workers and the problem exists in many work place even in government office. Also, women is the one to make a sacrifice (most willing) to the family: have a baby, pick up sick kid from school, get primary custody and etc. I don't think this culture will change. What I could do is to discourage my son to be an engineer. We are doing a lot of activities to encourage him to be medical doctor.
    • CC
    • March 16, 2011
    • I believe every Woman might face discrimination at work place since its dominated by men. I am the only woman in my Department, I was never discriminated but the possibilities might arise. So every Woman Engineers should stay strong no matter how harsh the situation would be and fight for her rights. Because leaving is never a solution!
    • feven
    • March 16, 2011
    • I would suggest that female engineers find companies that are managed by women. I had one female manager who was rather difficult. She could have been a half back for the Green Bay Packers with her build and she had a bouncer's mentality. She had even worked as a bouncer while attending school at Penn State. where she received her Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.
    • Ned
    • March 16, 2011
    • What I never understood is why women are the ones that have to sacrifice work for the family. Men do not seem to have in most cases conflict with going on a business/work trip. Why women do? Maybe if women will feel liberated from such society pressures, then we could start again this dicussion.
    • SG
    • March 16, 2011
    • It's interesting that the report summary didn't talk very much about discrimination and equality (nor does the full report), but the discussion in the comments has focused on these aspects. Overall, it seems that the take-home message is "engineering careers suck" and it's somewhat worse for women than for men. I am a white male from the Midwest, and I don't want to deal with the "engineering culture" of gray old men in old gray cubicles. It's easy to see why a woman (especially non-white) wouldn't want to work there, either. Engineering companies in the US who want to remain competitive had better take a hard look at what they can do to fundamentally change their working environment. If they don't, nobody in the US will work for them, and all the jobs will go to countries where people are glad to have a job of any kind.
    • Craig Finch
    • March 16, 2011
    • 1.) Women leave for a lot of the same reasons men leave engineering for say finance. They are just more sensitive to these issues. More work, less pay and the race to the bottom culture of cost cutting. 2.) Women value social connections, nightlife, and opportunities outside work. This is why so many young professionals move to cities. Unfortunately engineering jobs have gone to the suburbs and middle america, not exactly the scene young women look for.
    • Guest
    • March 16, 2011
    • One thing I notice in general is most women aren't aggressive enough in salary negotiation. Unfortunately I didn't realize that you should negotiate the first offer I was fresh out of engineering school and graduated in a really tough job market and was happy to take a job. Lets try an example lets say I run a company that wants to have lower labor costs than then other engineering design firms. If women actually get paid less than men in a free market I would hire all women and be able to underbid the competition every time if all skills and experience levels are the same. This alone should tell that women are not underpaid. Google the words white house, women, wages, myth and you get an article showing that after factoring in education, and experience there is no pay discrepancy. Another factor is men tend to work longer hours, make overtime pay, work different job shifts, and in dangerous work environments. Women now are graduating with 57% of the college degrees in liberal arts thats one of the reasons there is a shortage of women in engineering. As long as the government doesn't distort the job market the most efficient worker will get the job.
    • Steve
    • March 16, 2011
    • Sorry, but I can't address the problem only for women. After a 38 year engineering career I can honestly say that engineering is a tough field and not for technical reasons. Sometimes I thought that if I hadn't had an athletic background that I just wouldn't have made it and I know a lot of folks that didn't make it. You gotta be physically and mentally tougher than "they are." Then I got a reputation for being intimidating. (Go figure) I met managers who discriminated against degreed engineers because they thought we were paid too much and would jump to a higher paying position pretty quickly (this after they just hired me), managers who groomed their favorites and discounted everyone else, and colleagues who were jealous because although they held engineering positions, they didn't have an engineering degree and couldn't legally advance in the field. I learned that I would never get acknowledged by my colleagues or management so I set my own goals and derived my satisfaction from exceeding those goals. I also learned that others would take credit for my work and viciously defend their actions to the point of me no longer desiring to defend myself. I just got used to it. I satisified myself with the fact that I enjoyed "saving the enterprise by implementing the laws of physics and engineering technology" and that my paycheck would support my family. I never got an in-place promotion. In my last position I thought I had finally found a professional engineering organization because they let me do "everything", but it turned out that they let me do "everything" while they were grooming someone else who got the promotion. So I retired.
    • MS
    • March 16, 2011
    • No idea why this is presented as a problem for women only, but it brilliantly surmises what engineering workplace is all about: "What predicts intention to leave engineering as a career? Feeling a lack of confidence in their ability to perform engineering tasks and manage multiple roles combined with not being positive about the outcomes they expected from performing engineering tasks leads women engineers to consider quitting the engineering field altogether. The other two most significant contributors to women’s intentions to quit engineering were excessive work responsibilities without commensurate resources and a lack of clarity regarding their work roles."
    • Steve
    • March 17, 2011
    • Yes and what does that say of our efforts. IEEE I feel should be a forrunner in forwarding the young womens role in Engineering and the STEM disciples. Here at WIRELESS WELDING TECHNOLOGIES I have offered an intern and "donor" program that I hope will help to encourage Young Women in Physics and Engineering. And I mention any lack of feminine presence if answering a business reply. And try to only focus on networking with Institutions that forward the Young Women in Physics and Engineering partnership.I personally envision that it will be a young woman gaining now that may bring quantum applications through wireless genetic and elemental transfer into global realization.
    • John Fisher
    • March 17, 2011
    • I have been an engineer for many years, and and have often wondered about the lack of females in the profession. Can I make the following points: 1. There seems to me to be a basic difference between men and women in their interests. Whenever there is a technical/engineering, non-mandatory hobby or club event such as building rockets, robots, radios, etc etc, the participants are almost invariably 90-100% male. Boys/men just love playing around with technical stuff in their spare time - generally speaking, girls/women don't. I know that some will immediately object to this as sexist. But that's the way it is all the time - go to any such event and take a look. The great preponderance of males spending their spare time in technical activities (closely related to engineering careers), and the almost complete lack of women doing the same thing, is extraordinarily obvious. This very basic fact of personal interest seems to be lost in these types of studies as a reason why there's fewer women in engineering. 2. We are often told that women have many specific skills and abilities. We are told they are better communicators, more empathetic, more intuitive, more inclusive, etc etc. For some reason this is not seen as sexist. However if someone says that guys are better at some technical/mathematical area, making them more suitable for engineering, instantly that is condemned as sexist. This seems to me to be at best inconsistent, and even hypocritical. 3. I have been an engineer for 25 years. In all that time, every professional and educational institution I have been involved with has spent considerable time, energy and money in promoting women engineers. It has always failed to make much difference. 4. I know this point has been made before, but it's worth repeating. If women don't like the existing engineering cultures, but still love to be engineers just as much as men (as we're told) - why don't they just start their own all-women engineering companies, do what they love, and undercut all their competitors with lower labour costs? This doesn't happen. It is very easy to blame work culture or negative attitudes to the lack of women in engineering. I would like to see more women engineers in our workplace. But I personally think that there are some basic differences between men and women which account for the lack of women in engineering. I see lots of evidence for this (see above). If and when I see evidence for some other reason, I will change my mind.
    • Elmo
    • March 17, 2011
    • Good report, but I do not see any difference to situation of men. In general women have a lot of opportunitys like men have, so dont go to blame with gender arguments... instead go for your personal behaviour and treat your collegue(women or men) correctly. What I see is that in many instances that the %propability for women get a higher joblevel is much higher - and men because of the gender discussion do not get the chance for the position. For men (for long time) was no alternative - one has to work for the income of the family - so there is pressure to stay in working conditions which are not as you might want it (either with collegues or your boss) - and I am convinced this is still major stream thinking (or feeling..)
    • alfred
    • March 17, 2011
    • Thank you for the many interesting and informative comments. I do want to point out that we were interested in learning more about why women leave engineering, and how those who leave might differ from those who stay. We didn't set out to ask if women's experiences are different from men. But- we've started asking the same questions many of you have asked--is it the same for men? We agree that flexible and supportive work environments are good for all employees. And in fact, we're submitting a proposal to NSF next week to extend our study to male alumni. Nadya
    • Nadya Fouad
    • March 17, 2011
    • It is amazing to have so many colleagues flagrantly miss the point. This article in no was stating that the reasons for leaving the field are unique to women. This article is solely about negating the myth that most women depart the profession due to motherhood. This article is saying that engineering as a field looses (in this case female) talent mostly because of the professional environment itself and not because of "women issues". Everyone should be applauding the fact that women have gotten far enough professionally for this statistic to be true and moving on to solve the environmental issues that make good engineers quit engineering.
    • GVL
    • March 17, 2011
    • I was particularly saddened by the finding that "Thirty percent said they did not pursue engineering after graduation because they were no longer interested in engineering or were interested in another field." What are we doing to these young women while we educate them that they are burnt out before they even start working?
    • Susan Sim
    • March 24, 2011
    • I am currently in controls, have a Masters, and four years project engineering and I was told this at my four week review after not working for two years: "some of us aren't cut out for this environment" and that "I am slow." I 've completed every assignment and was not given any time dead lines, but expected to work with in hours of the project and told after the fact, I needed to know this. However, four weeks in the company, I am still pulling teeth to get guidelines. If I ask to review a safety contact with the head electrician, I'm down graded. I got reprimended for asking questions one at a time and asked to quantify them. Then the guy ended the review saying, "have you ever had a performance review?" Women are expected to change their personalities to adapt--if I don't berate, overtalk, and put down, I am not knowledgable. Oh, and admitting your wrong just is another place where they think you are weak. I'm willing to go to truck driving, where I can make more money. I've wasted my time getting a masters.
    • Woman Engineer
    • March 26, 2011
    • I have been working as a technician or engineer for twenty years, and I've never been more disgusted by the treatment of individuals in the career field. It should not be accepted that unprofessional behavior is a norm. Women should not be reminded every day they are women just because men are insecure.
    • Woman Engineer
    • March 26, 2011
    • I have been working in the engineering field for four years with a masters degree and have been fortunate enough to have worked alongside other female junior staff as wells as some female project managers. I strongly agree with the statement that engineering firms aren't respectful of the work-home boundary, which I believe affects both men and women in the workplace. After working months of 60-hour weeks or traveling endlessly out of town, finding it impossible to become involved in my local church, and struggling to maintain healthy relationships with my family and friends or healthy exercise/eating habits, I am worried that I will see no improvement in my quality of life. When I try to bring up my sense of lifestyle imbalance or safety concerns, a senior male project manager responds with statements such as 'when I was your age', 'this week I worked 65 hours!', or some derisive comment about my 'fear' for my personal safety in the field. I feel completely unsupported. Some fellow female junior staff have actually wondered if the only turning point away from excessive hours and travel is after maternity leave, as only women with children work around 40 hours a week. I love the actual work and am grateful for a job in my field, but I am not sure how much longer I can live the seemingly required lifestyle of an engineer. I am also disappointed in the comments from men who obviously missed the point of the article, and I believe the attitudes they convey only serve to highlight some of the difficulties women face daily from male coworkers.
    • Female Engineer
    • April 24, 2011
    • There are many reasons why I decided to go into engineering that only started with inherent strengths in the field: supportive teachers, educational opportunities, funding. But there have also been many points where I could have left. Resilience is important, but so was the support of peers, equally demoralized and equally resilient. I tried to be strategic, and gravitated towards strong figures who made excellent mentors. I knew that I didn't want to work in a "gray old man" culture, as Finch puts it, so I chose a rapidly expanding field that had a very young, dynamic culture. I have been gainfully employed as an electrical and computer engineer for 12 years, now married, now with a 4 year old. I dropped down to part-time, and, yes, I have to manage how others might perceive this "less-than" contribution and work to win and keep the satisfying "plum jobs." This is the life phase I am currently in, and happily my workplace is able to adapt. If I was not enjoying my work or the people I work with, not getting paid fairly, or not getting personal time to enjoy my life and family, I would be leaving too.
    • Genevieve
    • April 24, 2011
    • This is a fascinating topic and one with which I have been intimately familiar for 30 years (where DOES the time go?!). I have been in heavily male-dominated career fields for my entire adult life; first as a college student, then as a technical staff member, now as a technical manager. While I am convinced that women are as capable as men in terms of their technical capabilities, there seem to be a number of differences that can affect a women's ability to compete well against her male counterparts. First, is simple biology. Child-bearing and rearing generally come at a time in a women's life when she is just ramping up her career. Although many men are very active in raising their children (you go, guys!), pregnacy, child-birth, nursing, etc. ultimately fall on Mom. Second, I believe that women often have different priorities then men. Many men choose to prioritize their careers and are willing to work long hours while women tend to have multiple priorities including family (we are often the primary caregivers for both kids and aging parents), maintaining a home, friends, hobbies, volunteer work, etc. Studies of the human brain have shown that men are better at focusing on a single task while women are better at focusing on multiple tasks simultaneously. One skill is not necessarily better than the other, but they are different. Finally, I have observed that women tend to be more willing to take on more unpopoular administrative-type activities (as opposed to very technical work) for the sake of the team. These activities include things like scheduling, budgeting, safety, quality assurance, etc. While these activities are critical to the sucess of the project and the team, they are not as valued or well-rewarded as the hard-core engineering work in my company. In my 10 years as a technical manager, I have observed our women engineers routinely rated near the bottom of the stack because they were willing to take on some of these less-technical tasks. I do not know if this is a reflection of their true interests or maybe just a higher sense of cooperation. In any case, these activities are not well rewarded. So much of this comes down to personal choices. How many hours are we willing to work in a week? How important is having a family to us? What is really important/rewarding to us in our careers and personal lives? So while things are still admittedly far from perfect in the workplace, I am grateful to live in a country where I am able to make these choices for myself.
    • Heidi Ruffner
    • April 29, 2011
    • I am a female engineer and worked in the field for 27 years. My husband is an engineer. My 16 yr old daughter is on an robotics team and hopes to become an engineer. My son wants to be a firefighter. Yes some cultures appreciate engineers and some do not. We have worked for both. I have worked for 2 women, one was an engineer herself and appreciated my work - now I work for one who is not an engineer and has no appreciation of the workload she is asking for. One of my mentors advised me to work for a manager who has a daughter or a spouse in a technical field (who will be supportive of women). I do believe the environment influences anyone's decision to stay in the field and it is somewhat independent of gender. There is a lack of appreciation of both male & female engineers in this 'supply chain' business environment in the US right now.
    • Older Female Engineer
    • May 15, 2011
    • I am a female engineer. BSME in 1986. MBA in 1995. I've worked at three SE Wisconsin manufacturing companies in my professional career and, of course, have run into a few people in those years that I would not care to associate with again. But the vast majority of coworkers and managers have treated me fairly and respectfully. Perhaps this reinforces the study: I've stayed in engineering because it is a great career for me - uses my talents, i.e., I'm good at it, it's lucrative, I keep a healthy work/life balance, I enjoy the work and I like most of the people I work with." Just needed to say that because there are many women posting who have had negative experiences. Fortunately for me, I'm 25 years into positive experiences.
    • Carol
    • June 23, 2011
    • I am full-time Electrical Engineer, and have been for 10 years. Before working I was a production technician in high school. After some harassment at the lab, I thought I knew what I was getting into when I started my college and professional career. I dealt with all sorts of "attitude." Some due to my gender and some not. However, I did persist and was resilient. I was promoted within the program, but was still looked down on by my functional management. All was bearable since the work was challenging and was given proper respect for my accomplishments (I had done plenty of "diving catches" by then). However, upon my last performance review, it became clear to me..that no matter what I would never be good enough; I didn't "show my enthusiasm" like "jim" who worked long hours for free...Need I mention that "jim" is very similiar to that manager. The PA kept along that note and I started to cry (yes, I showed weakness) thiking that I should just quit. This berating was despite the fact, that I got the second highest rating in the group!! (Due to my reports from peers and higher ups, which he said, "I'm just not seeing") I now work at a different company and am dealing with a lot of isolation. I hear the drop dead age is 35-40. I have two more years..I hope I can make it. Oh, and I have 3 year old twin girls and I hope to be a good role model for them so they wouldn't think that their mom "couldn't hack it." So..more pressure for me to "make it."
    • Still here Female Engineer
    • July 12, 2011
    • I do think comparitive statistics with men in the field would be helpful in this analysis and/or summary.
    • v
    • July 20, 2011
    • [...] their ideas and concerns. It’s hard to do, but think about why you reject ideas or if you tend to give less credit to female [...]
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    • October 10, 2011
    • Since graduation, I have experienced discrimination in the engineering field, and many of my fellow graduates have had similar issues. However, I think the engineering field that one pursues plays a great part into discrimination. For instance based on my experiences, industrial engineers that focus on planning and business face less discrimination. However, industrial engineers focusing on manufacturing or mechanical, civil, or chemical engineers that are in more male dominated areas tend to have more discrimination. I feel ultimately discrimination comes down to the company and senior management enforcing fair workplace policies.
    • PG
    • November 4, 2011
    • Thank you for bringing this issue to the light. I thought, until now, that I was the only one experiencing this phenomenon. It is hard to measure it and prove it. Thank you very much
    • YB
    • December 2, 2011
    • [...] Engineering still fails at engaging women: [...]
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    • December 4, 2011
    • It is funny how large companies bend over backwards to hire women engineers only to have them become miserable. In my experiences, most women engineers simply cannot perform at the same level as their male counterparts purely because they lack the hands-on skills and intuition that comes from tinkering at an early age. There are plenty of male engineers like this as well but it's not as prevalent. I think a lot of people have a distorted view of engineering and go into it for the wrong reasons. Simply put, if you don't have a passion for designing, testing, building or fixing things, the majority of engineering positions out there are not gonna appeal to you. A BS degree will sharpen your mind and skills, but if you lack talent it's not gonna help you as an engineer. Good engineers do not get into the field for money, they do it because they love it. When a good engineer wants to make substantially more money, they don't go into management...they start their own companies. I wish people would stop whining so much and ditch the entitlement mentality. If you want to be taken seriously in a male-dominated field, you're gonna need to "man up" for lack of a better phrase. At the very least, be glad you have a half-decent position in which any number of male engineers are waiting to fill should you choose to leave.
    • Jon
    • December 13, 2011
    • Well being a female junior in high school, now that I've read this and all the comments of people actually in the field and not just the college crap saying anything involving STEM is amazing, I'm terrified to become an engineer. I guess I'm back to not knowing what to do with my life
    • SJ
    • May 5, 2012
    • Thank you very much for doing this study and publishing it online for all to access without cost. I am a female engineer that has been in the embedded software industry for almost 15 years. There have never been many female engineers where I've worked, I'd guess 10% or less of the engineers were women. Within that percentage, most of the female engineers were immigrants, on a work Visa, or had a green card - from Asia or Europe. I am an American - so I am a minority within a minority. It would be interesting if there were a study that takes cultures into account to see if it has any impact on female engineering retention. Especially for female, Asian engineers. I admire and respect so many of the men I have worked with and have developed respectful and good working relationships with them. I am a valued employee and have been treated by my company equally. Despite all this, I resonate with many of the negative experiences other women have shared about their engineering work environment. I believe that there are negative aspects of the engineering work environment that exist irrespective of gender, some that affect women differently than men (and vice versa), some that affect only women, and some that affect only men. Furthermore, in my experience, the bulk of the negative work environment issues are not intentionally targeted toward women. However, I do believe that the negative engineering work environment affects most women more than men, which is why you see women leave the engineering field at a much higher rate than men. For example, I have had more than one experience where a male engineer has said things to me that he would never, ever say to another male engineer. Mainly because the other male wouldn't stand for it and would verbally hit back just as hard, and the instigator knows it and so doesn't say it (at least most of the time, if he does a rivalry / feud is born between the two and morphs into a type of modern day, non-physical, one-on-one combat). Another example that I frequently experience whenever I work with a new male engineer is that there's a type of testing or trial or hazing that he puts me through to test my mettle. It lasts quite a while - at least as long as the first few milestones of the project if not the entire project. Can I handle it? Am I a good engineer? Do I do a good job? If I do, and I almost always do, then the relationship changes: I've passed the test, I have earned a basic level of respect and we can move forward. I have always had to earn this respect, it's not given to me just because Joe down the hall gave me his respect. I've got to win it from each male engineer I work with. Even when I earn it, all is not safe. Things transition into a constant, underlying sense of competition and continual challenge of proving my ability and worth. May I be so bold as to propose that many men find this kind of environment stimulating? I think they get a rush out of it. Conquering the task, beating the odds, proving their abilities. They climb the mountain, experience the high & then look for another mountain to conquer. It jives with how most men tick. Some women jive with it too or they don't care one bit & ignore it, but for majority of women (American at least), this is NOT how we work. Personally, I find this environment exhausting, disheartening, and demoralizing. There's a part of me that exults in conquering the task, but that part gets smaller and smaller as time rolls on. More and more I find myself thinking, do I really have to do this again? Fight another battle, again? Take the verbal put down and prove the other party wrong... again? Because software engineering is collaborative and requires creative, passionate, opinionated, and intelligent people to work together to come up with a solution, it's only inevitable that if there's a minority party, that party is going to suffer the affects of being a minority. I'm sure that men experience similar issues in female dominated fields. For example: nursing or elementary school teachers. Add to this the general high-pressure, demanding nature of the job and it's no wonder that women leave engineering at such a high rate. To SJ who's now terrified to become an engineer, and other young women like her, you never know what the future holds. You can choose a career path that seems safe, and be miserable or be happy; you can choose engineering and have a fantastic experience, one that you love and are grateful to have had or you can be miserable; there's no crystal ball. What I can tell you is that my academic experience of engineering was nothing at all like my real life experience of engineering. So don't believe everything the universities and colleges tell you. After all, they're trying to sell you your education so it's all going to be presented with rose colored glasses no matter what the degree. First, I recommend that you get to know yourself, which is not easy to do when you're in high school. Ask yourself what do you like, what don't you like. You may like math and science, but your personality, your emotional and/or your social needs may not jive with the reality of an engineering career. In other words, your intelligence may be equivalent to that of other top engineers, but your temperament may not be compatible. (Same advice with dating - you may really be attracted to the guy and respect him, but you might not be able to live with him.) So really explore your options in a school. Choose one that gives you real-world, hands on experience, internships early on in your degree - the earlier the better. Schools that match you with companies that provide mentors and real-world projects. Be sure that the school pulls out all of the stops to help you and support you with your engineering degree and your career. And don't be afraid to change mid-stream if you find that you don't like engineering, or use it as a stepping stool to go in the direction you choose. An engineering career is not for every female who's interested in it, regardless of intelligence, but it will always be a wonderful tool for training you how to think, how to problem solve, and will reveals to you much about yourself and how you tick because of it's difficult and challenging nature.
    • NM
    • May 13, 2012
    • Thanks for the advice, (Haha especially on dating) It just worries me because I've been researching engineering, so I have a better understanding of what it's like and everything I've seen is either people saying it's amazing or they hate it there seems to be no middle ground. Also, I go to a small school in the country and I'm really smart there, but I'm worried when I get out in the world I might be no where near as smart then. However, I just got accepted to summer programs, one for STEM at Salisbury University and one for just girls about engineering at Virginia Tech, so I'm excited for that and I hope it will give me a better understanding. But thanks again, I'll defiantly have to keep what you said in consideration when looking for schools. I think your the first person to give me advice on what can help me figure things out between choosing schools and to actually look at myself and if I'd like the career rather than advice to just look at what the career has to offer.
    • SJ
    • May 13, 2012
    • I am a current college student studying electrical engineering. I came across this study because of the final paper I am writing. This is my first year at ITT Technical Institute and I am somewhat experiencing some of the same situations in my classes but I don't let it bother me and I am now one of the top students in the program. But the reason why I am writing is because I want to appreciate the study and comments because it gave me an idea to better prepare myself in the near future. Hopefully I can be apart of changing discrimination of women in the engineering field. I would like to ask if I can interview a few women and men engineers for my paper, via email? My paper is due June 4th and I would greatly appreciate it, thank you.
    • DJ
    • May 16, 2012
    • [...] still not there yet, and have a ways to go in improving cultures of engineering programs and workplace climates (a sample of 20% females with engineering degrees to 11% in the workplace is [...]
    • The Emperor May Have Mini-Bros | Riparian Data
    • October 1, 2012
    • DJ, ITT Technical Institute does not have an electrical engineering program.
    • Mike
    • December 14, 2012
    • Mike, ITT Technical Institute does have a electrical engineering program. I have two more quarters left in the program. Not all campuses have the same program but I am a student at ITT Technical Institute.
    • DJ
    • December 16, 2012
    • DJ, unless ITT is awarding you a BSEE, they do not have an electrical engineering program.
    • Mike
    • December 23, 2012
    • Mike, I honestly don't want to go back and forth about the school I attend. I will be graduating with my AS in electrical engineering in June and I find that impossible that my school wouldn't have the program but are giving out diplomas for it. Feel free to check out the website. http://itt-tech.edu/m/programs.cfm Thank you anyway.
    • DJ
    • December 24, 2012
    • DJ, I figured you'd do enough research on this based on my initial post but apparently, you already know everything. ITT does not offer an AS nor a BS in electrical engineering. They offer something with a "tech" on the end. Even then, ITT is not ABET accredited. There are plenty of bona fide accredited universities that offer BSET degrees. ITT is not one of them. You've flushed your money down a hole. But I guess your ignorance is is the fault of male engineers, right?
    • Mike
    • January 19, 2013
    • Ignorant is what I am not. I am not going to go back and forth with you about my education. You need to do your research, I've done mine. I will see you out in the field of engineering. And considering you're not paying for my education, why are you so concerned?
    • DJ
    • January 19, 2013
    • Legitimate state licensed engineers are tired of vocational-school graduates and other techies calling themselves "engineers". That's why! A paralegal is not a lawyer and a nurse is not a medical doctor. Please, just know what racket you're getting involved with.
    • Mike
    • January 19, 2013
    • I just read the report Stemming the Tide and really enjoyed it. I am a women engineering in civil engineering and have been working for 3 years. I am feeling very unsatisfied and unsure about my career choice. I have several girlfriends from school that feel the same. I think we all thought that by becoming engineers we would have the opportunity to make a difference in our communities, but at the workplace we feel very isolated from the communities we are working for. I think women in general are nurturers, teachers, care givers, and in the engineering field we are so separated from the end goal that we can easily loose our passion and motivation that originally led us to make engineering a career choice. At least, that is how I feel.
    • Lauren
    • February 4, 2013
    • [...] mental hoops to believe that the tech industry doesn’t drive women away with its behavior. The attrition rates for women in the tech industry are atrocious. It’s an understatement to say that women are simplydiscouraged from entering the [...]
    • Discussions We Don’t Need To Be Having Yet | amy nguyen
    • August 29, 2013