Two huge questions I am constantly exploring on this blog are why are women so under-represented in engineering and how can employers attract and retain more talented woman engineers? It is such a complicated issue, and the answers can change from woman to woman.
For me personally, having children has played a huge role in answering these questions. From my first engineering full-time job I have been career driven and focused on becoming the best engineer in my organization. But once I had children their needs and care came before my career. I reduced my hours and work load from full-time to part-time and I have been content to coast in my current role rather than try to advance my career ambitions – all so I could spend more time at home with my children. Once my children are both in school I think I will finally be ready and motivated to come back to work full-time and pick up full-speed-ahead with where I left off in my career.
So I believe that to retain talented woman engineers employers need to be more accommodating to working moms and offer more flexible roles. Benefits such as longer time off for maternity leave, extended leave without pay options for new parents, part-time engineering roles, and return to work initiatives and programs to motivate and support women engineers who want to come back to work after taking a break from their careers to care for a young family would all help attract and retain more woman engineering talent.
I was recently contacted by Molly with Trade Machines and she shared with me their research on this topic. They have created an easy to read and informative infographic to answer the question of why are only 13% of engineers women? Here is what Molly had to say about the infographic and the research that went into creating it:
At TradeMachines, which is a search engine for used industrial machinery, we are keen on equality. We believe, that no matter who you are, where you come from, what your family background is, we are all in the same boat and we should respect and support each other. We always believed our work environment is gender-equal since the overall ratio of men and women is 60-40, but one day we realized, that even within our accepting environment, gender is distributed unequally. As an example, in marketing, we are mostly women and we only call the sales department “the sales guys”.
Given we work with industrial machinery, we are surrounded by engineers at work and through our customer base and we had the feeling that most of them are men. During a casual discussion, one of us was curious and came across the fact, that within the US only 13% of engineers are women, in Germany 17% and in France 21%. These are all developed countries with a gender-equal education system so why is there such a significant gender gap in this field?
We wanted to get to the bottom of it and started searching. It is surprising, the internet has all the information you could possibly ask for, the only thing you need to do is look for it. We started reading scholarly articles, researched and also looked into the statistics the U.S. Department of Labor put together. Is was shocking.
Once we had an overview, we thought that summarizing the information we gathered and publishing it in the form of an infographic is the least we can do. Women working in engineering have to face numerous difficulties and we hope that by drawing attention to the issue not only can we show our support, but maybe we can also trigger further support from others.
I really enjoyed reading this infographic and I agree with much of the information presented in it. I hope my blog and other similar sites, programs and activities designed to encourage and cultivate women engineering talent will help change the current trends.
My woman engineer interview series features interviews with successful, smart and beautiful women engineers. These women shared their stories on challenges and accomplishments on their path to success as engineers. Read through their stories for some inspiration to become a woman engineer, or inspiration to stick with engineering if you already are an engineer and are considering leaving the field.
What do you think of the infographic? Do you agree with their research? What do you think can be done by employers to attract and retain more women engineers?