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The future of women in Engineering...
17

The future of women in Engineering...

The future of women in Engineering...

(OP)
I'm always on the watch for items on this topic, if for no other reason than the fact that we have 4 granddaughters, 3 of whom have shown a certain enhanced aptitude toward science and math, and I would like to think that one (or more) of them might follow in their grandfather's footsteps (my wife and I had 3 boys, 2 of whom are professional chefs) and enroll in engineering school (maybe even my old alma mater). Anyway, I hadn't seen any other thread covering this specific issue on E-Tips and thought that this would be as good a way as any to start the conversation, if anyone's interested:

http://electronicdesign.com/embedded/interview-jan...

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Imagination is not gender specific.

my 2 cents...

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Husband and I met at college, both in civil. At our 15 year reunion this year, the director of the program came up and welcomed Husband, and when Husband told the director that I was also a CEE grad, the director walked off. Never even said hello. And yes, he heard what Husband said.

Mike, sure, but try telling that to me with 15 years of stupidity to fight against. More than that, actually; in my AP Physics class in high school, I was the first girl in 4 years to take the class. The boys would ask a question and the teacher would answer. I would ask a question and the teacher would ask one of the boys to answer (they usually didn't know, either). Until the pervasive, subtle, and often unnoticed subtext to girls/women of "you can't do this, you don't belong here" goes away, there won't be more women in engineering.

I need to get out my boxing gloves now. dangit.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Not being a woman, I can't speak to how pervasive sexism is. About 40% of the people I work with most closely at my client's are women. Some are really good. Some aren't. About the same mix of ability as the males I work with. Some are really assertive, some are not. But more than ever, I see women who just want to do their job and leave the cause to others. It seems like I have more "how do we do [something technical]?" discussions with women now than ever before. I see more women who insist on being evaluated as Engineers than as women every year. I found myself yelling at a young (female) Engineer last month for a bone-head newbie move just like I would have yelled at a guy. No worries about it being a male/female thing, it was just an old-Engineer/young-Engineer thing and we both took it that way. I didn't even think about getting in trouble for yelling at a girl until a few hours later.

I know that the garbage is far from over, but I have 3 granddaughters that I really hope can move into any field they have the talent to be in without the nonsense that my wife faced in the workplace in the '70's or people creating artificial incentives to meet quotas.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.
The plural of anecdote is not "data"

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

2
Less than 30% of engineering grads here in Canada work as engineers. When you interview 4th year students, more than 90% of them intend a career in engineering, so not all of them are leaving the profession by choice- most are leaving because they cannot find an entry-level position to get a toe-hold in the profession. That's unlikely to dramatically improve in the next five to ten years.

Despite the poor capture of eng grads into engineering, eng school enrollments are rising year after year here, at a rate greater than economic or population growth. That is important information that every prospective engineering student should know before making the decision to enroll in an eng program. The stats are better in the US right now, but the capture of eng grads into eng careers is sagging there too. Engineering school has long ago ceased to be a ticket to a career as an engineer, though eng grads are sought out for other occupations.

When I was at school in the 80s, my chem eng class was about 30-35% female. The ratio increased toward graduation- guys failed more frequently than girls. Current chem eng classes at my alma mater are about 50% female. Mech, elec and computer (geek eng) are still almost free of females (5-10% female at most), but civil and systems/industrial are at least 1/3 female- that hasn't changed over the past 20 years or so. There is no reason in my mind that we should be taking active steps to make all these programs 50% female, any more than we should be concerned that there are now more female doctors graduating than there are males.

Unless your granddaughters have more than just an aptitude in math and science, encourage them to keep their options open by not dropping advanced math and science courses too early- that's essential. But like all people, they should seek out and pursue their passion- a mere aptitude may lead to a passion, but mere aptitude is insufficient for success. If technical problem solving is that passion, engineering might still be a good choice as an education.

As to what they'll end up doing for a living, that's years hence and nobody can predict it for them now. At present, anything that leads to a good white-collar salary here is oversupplied with entry-level candidates- with one exception: medicine. Medical schools and the provinces who fund them still control the number of residency spots to more closely match demand. Over 90% of people in Canada with medical degrees work as doctors, and that's not because a doctor's education makes them unqualified for other work.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

When I did Mech Eng in the 80s, there were a few women, maybe 20%. Chem and Elect were higher percentages, Civil was highest. Never ran into a prof who dismissed women in class for any reason, and we had some weird specimens. I think my classmates would have roasted a prof alive if they had behaved that way, and we surely weren't the most enlightened crew at that time. But we surely liked having women in our classes, and at the social events. I run into quite a few female engs in industry, some in pretty senior positions in the local pulp and paper mills and refineries. I'm sure they've had issues, but for the most part, they get treated the same as everyone else, except people are often more polite to them.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

(OP)
I'll admit that when I was in engineering school back in the late 60's it was like attending a seminary without the dress code. I think the ME enrollment was less than 5% females however we did have several female professors and instructors. Now we did have a fairly decent business department so that helped somewhat, not to mention the nursing school affiliated with the local hospital and there was that small private (Finnish) liberal arts school across the lake from our campus...

After a couple of years I decided to marry my high school sweetheart and moved into married student housing, known affectionately on campus as 'fertile hill' (our two oldest sons were born while I was still a student).

Note that I'm a frequent visitor to my alma mater as we have a rather strong academic relationship with them (they use our software products extensively in their graduate and undergraduate as well as their research programs) and I've noted that the number of females on campus has really exploded recently. In fact, they have a very active 'women in engineering' program that goes out to high schools and encourages the student to attend summer youth programs which while they are open to both boys and girls, the real push is to get the girls interested as early as possible since moltenmetal was correct in that one of the secrets to keeping girls interested in engineering is making sure that they get early and continued exposure to science and math as well as an opportunity to learn what engineering is really all about, thus the emphasis on the summer programs (we hope to arrange for one or two of our granddaughters to attend as they become old enough for the program, which starts at the middle school level).

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

When I went through undergrad, female students were less than 10% of the class in my experience. As a professor now, I typically have about 20% of my students as females (structural). I'm encouraged by that, and as much as I can I encourage them to stick with it. There is certainly no basis for ignoring their abilities from what I have seen first hand. Still though, by the time they get to me, they already know they want to be engineers. I think what would be more helpful would be helping the undecided, at least in knowing they can do it, and there is no gender-based reason why they can't.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

I work with several women engineers, and some of them have a very different way by which they came into engineering. Most of the people in engineering, that I know, came from living on a farm and had to figgure out how to do things, and have a get it done attitude. However, I don't see that as much now. And some of the women I work with see engineering as a chance to learn more. More of a fast and fourious get it done. Maybe I'm just missing the depth part in them. Or with them being younger I'm just not hearing the discussions.

Yes I have also seen this with some of the male engineers, but just not where I work. And maybe some of the things I am seeing is generation related, and not gender related.

However I do value the different viewpoints they have. I think they can also be role models for my daughter, who will be soon, or is already, looking for what they want to do in life.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

There is definitely gender bias in organizations, be it university, government, or business. The higher-ups have the opportunity to set the tone for the corporate culture, and more often than not, I think it is an uncomfortable issue that many in leadership want to shy away from.

That being said, my eldest daughter is in the mechanical program at School of Mines, Rapid City, and they have various aspects specific to their programming to both encourage and retain females in the program. She was my baby at the time I had my CNC shop, so she was always my companion at the table at night when I was studying drawings, working up quotes, and perusing the various tooling and fixturing catalogs. She knew the names of more materials and tools and measuring instruments by the time she was 6 than most non-tradespeople will know in a lifetime.

SLTA, I have witnessed incidents exactly like those you have described and it really pisses me off that people will render judgement and totally discount valid ideas and even informal peer-to-peer conversation based on gender. Women and men think differently and approach problems and challenges differently, which is a tremendously valuable asset, in my opinion.

My 2 cents.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

ornerynorsk, I remember hanging out with my daddy when he was fixing tractors in his shop. Fire burning in the woodstove he built, opera or bluegrass on the radio, and me cleaning out the metal shavings from his lathe. Thank you for reminding me of that. He died 4 years ago, in a week and a half. He and my mom being so matter-of-fact that women can do anything, just like men, is a huge reason I'm still an engineer today.

You should hear the stories my mom can tell, as a nuclear physicist, and a *GASP* woman.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Who knows what motivates one to become an engineer anyway?

I worked with a couple of them with my present employment, neither of them in any way using gender as a crutch. That is not to say that somebody unfamiliar with either of these ladies might see one as a pretty little ball of fluff. It's just that behind the 'cute' is an industrial-strength mind and underestimating that fact is the stuff of legend in several cases.

As I move on to the upper edge of age, I am quite satisfied with the young engineers I see coming along. Just happens that some of them are female.

old field guy

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

2
There's a future in engineering? If it were up to the MBAs we would all go the way of the dodo bird...

Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

I think the MBAs see engineers as people who bring up inconvient facts, like the laws of gravity. The MBAs seem like small children fighting over there place in line. I don't see a glass cealing for women, I see that most women are smart enough to want to avoid such child play.

Yes I do believe universitys descriminite for many things because those who do it can hide behind the walls of the university. Besides if those professors were really that good, why would they be teaching and not out making real money? Because they have an agenda, or they can't (or both).

And in the working word there are two types of bosses, those that grow there people to better themselves, and those who make there people look small so they look better. If you find you are working for the second type, run.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

slta: good on you dad and your mom for helping you as a child to realize what should be obvious, but somehow isn't- that a person's gender doesn't determine their abilities. That's what I want my daughter to realize as well. Girls need to be given a chance to explore all their options. Societal role pressure for the sexes is still incredibly strong.

I had the good fortune to not only have brilliant female classmates, but also some excellent female engineers as mentors all the way back to my 1st co-op jobs. I literally didn't have time to develop any kind of an attitude about whether or not women could do the job- it was obvious from the get-go.

Where many women tended to start from behind a notch was in advantage provided by hands-on experience- the parents were at fault there, not giving their girls a chance to work with tools, take things apart to see how they work etc. Even in my day, in chem eng at least I was in the minority, like you having growing up with a dad with a lathe and a milling machine in the basement and permission to use them at an age that today would result in accusations of negligent parenting, whereas it was actually absolutely the opposite. These days the males are, on average, every bit as sheltered as the females, so any comparative advantage the males had there is long gone.



RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Plenty of talented ladies where I work. No gender issues.

At uni, we only had <10% of females, which is probably where the disparity starts.

- Steve

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Those that can do, do.
Those that can't do, teach.
Those that can't teach, consult.

"Wildfires are dangerous, hard to control, and economically catastrophic."

Ben Loosli

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Those who can't do any of the above become MBAs. Sadly, they make the most.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

I got my (then about 10) daughter into that on-line game where you had to build things to get a ball or balls over the line. Very good engineering/maths/physics problem solving game. Four years later and she's back into cats and Teletubbies.

- Steve

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

As your daughter gets older it seems to be more difficult to get that wow factor that drives interest. The bigest thing that seems to drive my daughters interest is dad. So I keep trying to find new things that might interest her. It's good that she is interested in math.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

(OP)
Our 10 year old granddaughter is into Legos in a big way so that's encouraging as she has to actually build something, and the 8 year old is into games that requires thinking about your next moves, like checkers and battleships. And she's even developed a 'system' for playing Battleships, which she carefully explained to me after beating me three times. One of these days I've got to teach her how to play chess. She's also really intrigued by trains and she has a camera she carries with her whenever they are out driving around like on vacation last year when they drove from Texas to SoCal, so that she can take pictures of the locomotives (she must have 20 or 30 photos from that trip alone).

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

John: sounds to me like these girls' parents and grandparents are doing something right!

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Most girls I knew who were intelligent and science oriented overwhelmingly went into medicine, veterinary science, psychology. If it wasn't any of those it was law. Its a stereotype, but ive found that women naturally gravitate towards fields where they will have a face to face interaction with those they are helping. They all have a vision in their head of how one day their expertise will help people that will come to them with their health/legal/pet elephant related issues, and that they will be able to see the results on a personal level. Engineering is generally seen as making stuff, engines, buildings, measurements, numbers, robots, hard hats, overalls, holding a clip board while pointing at stuff. It probably helps people somewhere along the line, but its primarily a technical job of making material items. The fact its also a very male dominated industry probably also scares off the last remaining ones who had multiple offers after high school graduation.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

There were a few interesting studies conducted in the UK during the 1990's, trying to determine why so few women pursue engienering and math studies in college.

As reported in New Scientist magazine, they found that virtually all of the high school girls that won UK scholarships to college in the fields of math and science were from all-girl high schools. So, they had some co-ed high schools change their math and science classes to be same-sex classes, and girls were not mixed with boys for those particular classes. The result was a dramatic improvement in the girls grades and interest in math and science, and some of those girls went on to win the scholarships.

I am sure that any comment made on why this occurred would be interpreted as sexist, but the results were real.

And finally, after my own 40 yr career as an engineer winds to an end, I can say that all of the women engineers I had worked with were at least as good at engineering as the men.

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! "

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

(OP)
I have to admit that during my 14 years working as a Machine Designer (first job after finishing school) there were no women engineers but we did have a few who were draftsmen. However, when I left that field of endeavor and made the transition to a software company some 33 years ago, note that this was also a move from the Mid-West (Saginaw, MI) to SoCal (Orange Co.), things were very different. And while in 1980 we were still a pretty small organization, there were many women working side-by-side with men doing virtually the same jobs. And it was wasn't just the programmers but also the people to trained customers and did demos and benchmarks. And while I was a supervisor for the pre- and post-sales support team, two of my manufacturing people were females and while one was fairly young (she had been born into a family of only two girls but whose father owned a machine shop so since she was the oldest, she was expected to learn the 'family business') and the other was actually the oldest person in my group how had been running machine tools her whole life and later moved into the NC programming side of the business. She was more like a 'grandmother' in our group, very feminine, but still a no nonsense sort of person having spent a lifetime working in a man's world.

But if we look at the company today, where we now have over a thousand programmers in locations around the world, the percentage who are women is quite high and many of them hold team-leader, supervisor and manager positions. And until just a couple of years ago, the VP of Software development was a women, and I was on her immediately staff, which also include another female. At the moment we don't have any executive level females (my old boss retired two years ago so that she and her husband could pursue their 'hobby' of climbing mountains, volcanoes to be specific, while they were still young enough to do so) we still have a very large number of managerial and supervisor positions held by females.

Anyway, the point I was making is that, at least in my experience, location (Mid-West versus SoCal) and the type of industry (discrete manufacturing versus software development) does seem to make a difference.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Not long ago I found a website, http://jobstat.net/ Its job outlook statics are probably as accurate as any other career exploration site. They don't mention % error. I am a female manufacturing engineer. The website says only about 8% of manufacturing engineers are women. You can also look at the stat as % opportunity and say a female manufacturing engineer has only an 8% chance of finding work in her field. The stats are about the same for other engineering fields.

When I am asked for career advice I usually don't know what to say. Yes, engineering is a great career, but it can also be a constant uphill battle if you don't "look like the boss" (fit in).










RE: The future of women in Engineering...

You beat me to it Greg. That is precisely the kind of crap that gets spouted by people who have an agenda to push, and which turns many people off the 'equality' discussion. Anyone with half a brain - male or female - can see straight through it. Equality isn't normally what the pusher is looking for though, it's preferential treatment for their minority.

A cynic might ask why the minority needs preferential treatment. An older, wiser cynic might conclude that preferential recruitment has potential to be a destructive force within an organisation. I have no more desire to see engineers being recruited based on colour, gender, religious faith, sexuality, species, or whatever parameter is chosen by some minority whose lobbyists make a lot noise, than I have to see engineers being excluded from possible selection based on a similar set of criteria.

And no, I'm really not a prejudiced dinosaur. There are relatively few working females in my patch of industry - heavy electrical - but the handful I do see are very good at their job. I wish we had more female engineers of the same calibre. Heck, I just wish we had more engineers of their calibre, because we need them. We need them almost as much as we need equal equality.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

After seeing a recent engineer hired, and the question was asked, I know I did not interview very well, so why was I chosen? The answer that my boss replied was, you were the best candidate that made the best fit with the existing group. This led me to the conculsion that, it isen't always the best or brighest, or even gender, rase or other stuff that matters as much as if the engineer will work well with the existing cluture of the existing engineers that is important.
In this case the engineer that was hired does fit with the group and required only a short adjustment period. So the biasis issue is going away, but the stats may not show that until more of us old guys retire.

On the other hand, we now have more female engineers than we have female tech's, so what's up with that?

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

"that made the best fit with the existing group"

Interesting, I have some recollection of either some class or some article or similar on discrimination, in some cases limiting recruitment like this could be considered discrimination if it resulted in excluding people that were identifiably different. I think one example was that a company only recruited by notices on internal notice boards, this meant most applicants were from similar background to existing employees and the existing employees were fairly homogenous in terms of race so it could be considered as racism.

Or something like that, not saying I necessarily feel that way but just throwing it out there that without deliberate efforts to be discriminatory there can be implicit discrimination by some definitions.

(Yeah I know this is a terribly vague post, sorry.)

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RE: The future of women in Engineering...

(OP)
However, this does not mean that there is NOT an 'old boys club' mentality at work here. How do we overcome situations like that, wait for the 'old boys' to all retire or die off? But even then, if they've only been hiring other 'boys' who themselves eventually become the 'old boys', how does change come about, or do we have to just wait for the percentages to eventually have their effect, three or four generations later?

And then there is the opposite issue, one that might be even more insidious in nature since it can harm everyone long term.

About 25 years ago when I was managing a team in our Detroit sales office, I needed to hire a full-time system support person to run our training and demo systems (this was before the advent of laptops when everyone used 'workstations' networked to a local compute server, like a VAX or a mid-range IBM mainframe). Anyway, one of my demo guys used to take care of these duties on-the-side but he was really needed full time for the job he was hired for so I got approval to hire a full-time person to do the job as our office had just moved into a larger facility and we were staffing-up to support GM. The problem was that while the person who was going to be hired was going to be working in my office and technically under my daily supervision, this person was really going to be paid out of the budget of our corporate IT support organization (located in St. Louis) so the manager there had the final say as to who got hired and how much they were to be paid, however I did the interviewing and was asked to make recommendations.

Anyway, it turned out that the most qualified person who had applied was a gal who had at one time worked for one of our larger customers doing a similar job and so she would come to the job pre-trained, as it were, and so she was at the top the list I submitted to the manager in St. Louis. The next day we conducted what was a perfunctory phone interview so that the manager in St. Louis could at least ask some questions of his own before we offered anyone the job. All in all, we did three conference calls that day and in the end the guy in St. Louis agreed with me that we should hire my top choice, but before we finished the follow-up call, after which a formal offer was made by the personnel department, also in St. Louis, the manager made this comment to me which to this day I wish I had been recording the phone call (trust me, there were other reasons why I should have recorded ALL of his calls). He said to me, after all the issues were discussed and we had come to an agreement, that he "would have probably hired the gal anyway because he knew he could pay her a lot less since she was still single and the other two male candidates were both married and therefore would have demanded more money". And since the St. Louis office was the ultimate in being an 'old boys club' there was nothing that I could do since I had no budget responsibility in the matter; it was someone else's 'dime', not mine.

This was one of the reasons why I left management when I got the chance to take a well paid staff position in R&D, even if it meant relocating back to California while we had 3 kids still in school.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

...and yet one often heard that getting married/having a kid/etc were supposedly valid reasons for pay rises or promotions. So that may not be sexism so much as marital-status-ism, which was certainly alive and well 20 years ago in the UK.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Wow! After reading my post again I see it was as clear as mud.

I think the future of women in engineering is positive and I am hoping that the push with the STEM education project will keep it going that way. I consider anything that can help girls realize their potential in STEM subjects is a huge step in the right direction.

What I meant by the website and the statistic was this data is taken at face value and used by parents, teachers, and career counselors with best intentions to convince girls not to become engineers. Engineering is a nontraditional career for women and some people are really uncomfortable with that.

My definition of "looking like the boss" goes like this: "Having enough similarities in previous work or academic experience to be able to eat lunch with the boss and carry on a conversation." Does that make sense? It has to do with having similar life experiences before becoming an engineer. It has nothing to do with racism or discrimination, but feel free to read anything you would like into it.

Here's some very recent material on how to attract women to manufacturing. For once, it's actually a bit positive.

The July 2013 of the SME mag has an article "Help Wanted: Manufacturing Seeks its Other Half" http://www.sme.org/MEMagazine/Article.aspx?id=7411... which discusses how to attract women to manufacturing

From the Manufacturing Institute, "Untapped resource: How manufacturers can attract, retain, and advance talented women" http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/~/media/D...




RE: The future of women in Engineering...

p14175 were any of the women in the MEMagazine article actually engineers or other technical roles?

"...they are: Director, Industry Strategy & Events Deb Holton; Director of Training & Development Jeannine Kunz; and Industry Manager, Workforce Development Pamela Hurt."

Sounds to me like assorted marketing and HR jobs. Of course this could be seen as an example of women being underrepresenting in technical fields.

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RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Maybe I should or should not clarify what I said. In the past we had an engineer that had a different way of thinking, and it became counter productive in the progress of many projects. After he was asked to leave the engineering group, he joined another group, and remained somewhat counter productive until he retired.

As I started after he had joined another group, and before he retired, I had a chance to see some of his work, and I was not impressed. But because of this experence our group is very careful who they hire because members who are too different in thinking can be disruptive and the goal is to produce a product.

So while we do want people with different thinking, we don't want engineers who are disruptive to the product we are tasked to produce. It's a culture thing that we want to perserve because it works.
I know it's a fine line, but it is necessary for smaller groups. Maybe in larger groups several smaller cultures can exist, but in small groups, it dosen't work.

Having said that, we do have pressure to look at new ideas because of the whole population of engineers we have here (our group is mostly electricals, with a couple of civil's), but the other groups which have different products have mechinicals, and civils (and others I don't know about). Each group has a little different culture.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

6
Female here, been working as an engineer for 24 years. I'm a naturally nerdly type who enjoys crunching numbers all day. FWIW, I've not encountered any discrimination based on my sex.

Boys and girls are different; men and women are different. Not overwhelmingly different, but different enough that few men go shopping for clothes in large groups and few women enjoy cheering themselves hoarse at football games. Not to say none, but they are few and far between.

If only a few women choose to go into engineering, then so be it. I simply do not understand the drive to get more women into engineering simply for the sake of getting more women into engineering. It should be something you like to do. If you like it, go for it. But cajoling people into a field of study that they end up hating later only because some recruiter wanted to make a quota of some sort is, frankly, unethical.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

I wish I could give you ten stars for that post, but one will have to do. smile

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Ditto to ScottyUK here KM.

Quote (KM 13 Aug 13 16:26 )

If only a few women choose to go into engineering, then so be it. I simply do not understand the drive to get more women into engineering simply for the sake of getting more women into engineering. It should be something you like to do. If you like it, go for it. But cajoling people into a field of study that they end up hating later only because some recruiter wanted to make a quota of some sort is, frankly, unethical.

I've brought this point before and it wasn't well received. Perhaps it will be more palatable coming from a female engineer.

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RE: The future of women in Engineering...

2
I'm not sure it will be much more palatable coming from a female engineer, at least that hasn't been my experience. I've been working in engineering for the last 18 years and have mainly kept clear of women only events as I don't agree with them. I've been asked why by some fairly senior managers and have been told that my view is selfish, not everyone is as confident as me and lots of women do need additional encouragement and guidance.

I was very pleased to hear that a few men had slipped into a recent presentation at one of the womens lunchtime sessions - it was on a topic that would be of interest to any engineer regardless of gender.

If I could go back in time I would chose the same career path. I don't feel I've been discriminated against for being female, if anything there was a small element of positive discrimination at the start.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

The statment "If only a few women choose to go into engineering, then so be it. I simply do not understand the drive to get more women into engineering simply for the sake of getting more women into engineering. It should be something you like to do. If you like it, go for it. But cajoling people into a field of study that they end up hating later only because some recruiter wanted to make a quota of some sort is, frankly, unethical.", while it is a trueism, has a few problems for our profession (engineering) as a whole.
One is that none of us want the image of being a boys club, and all the societal attention it brings. There is no intent by most engineers to be a so called boys club. A professional club maybe, as most of us perfer the techicnal side of the profession.
Another is if too few women attempt to become engineers, then the education, and managments will tend to fill up with men who feel woment don't beling in engineering.

Now I may be wrong about this, but this is my perspective until I am convenced otherwise.

What I see with men who fail at engineering, is they attempt to remain in the techinical areas (many of them), and end up as technications. I don't see that with women, and I can't explain why. This is in general terms, and not true in every case.


RE: The future of women in Engineering...

LSpark "have been told that my view is selfish, not everyone is as confident as me and lots of women do need additional encouragement and guidance" sounds a little bit condescending and sexist in itself. Is the need for additional encouragement and guidance


Cranky, if "There is no intent by most engineers to be a so called boys club" then why does it follow that "if too few women attempt to become engineers, then the education, and managments will tend to fill up with men who feel woment don't beling in engineering"?

That seems somewhat self contradictory, unless you're intentionally implying that the kind of male engineers that migrate to management are also a bunch of sexist pigs?

Despite what KM & LSpark have said there have been some female members that have posted about being on the receiving end of discrimination, so I'm not going to claim it doesn't exist or that we shouldn't care about it.

However, I'm still not sold on large scale efforts with specific targeted stated goal of 'get more women into engineering', I still can't seem to get my head around a really good reason why engineering or any other profession should have the same gender distribution as the population at large.

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RE: The future of women in Engineering...

I think the goal should be to make sure ALL WOMEN understand that, if Engineering appeals to them, the door is open. Same goes for every field. The goal shouldn't be to encourage 'women' to become engineers, it should be to ensure that women know that it's a viable career option. Some times, that means that women already in the field have to make sure others can see them as a successful example.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

2
I’d like to comment on the idea “if few females want to go into engineering, then so be it”. Although I don’t have any issue with it in principle, it misses the larger issue. Few females want to go into engineering because it is dissuaded by our culture. Gender roles, which are entirely artificial constructs of our society, are beat into us early and then continually through our development. Subliminally (and sometime explicitly) we are told that engineering is a male profession. Parents by their daughters Barbie’s and their sons Lego. Daughters help their Moms with the baking, sons help their Dads in the garage. It’s also no surprise that woman who grew up around and worked with technology at a young age tend to be the ones that go on to become engineers. We don't really choose the field we go into, it's a by-product of our upbringing, culture, parents, friends, etc.

This brings up the next question, is there anything intrinsically wrong with lower numbers of female engineers? Why should we actively try to increase the number of females that enter the field? A discipline based around creativity and innovation, such as engineering, benefits greatly from diversity. Different minds, different backgrounds and different perspectives allows for a greater spectrum of ideas and solutions. Furthermore, and more importantly, technical fields are the highest paying (undergrad) disciplines on average and are also those that females are steered away from by cultural norms. The societal cycle of undervaluing females is reinforced by deterring females from entering highly valued (in terms of both remuneration and respect) fields of employment. Don’t think that’s the case? Watch this great/simple experiment which highlights our gender bias when it comes to career vs family.

Now the tricky part, how do you effectively change this situation? I agree, in part, with people that say it’s silly to put in some abstract quota to fill. It doesn’t matter if you have to fill 20 out of 50 spots reserved for females if you don’t have 20 (qualified) females who want the spots. However, this tackles the issue of more overt sexism. Although the more obvious forms of sexism are lessening they are still there and still need dealing with. Female only scholarships to technical programs is a little better of a solution. It makes it more appealing to enter into technical fields but only financially, it doesn’t do anything to (directly) combat the cultural deterrents.

Having said that, both these initiatives get more females into the field, which is important. As the percentage of females in engineering increases, it will be more attractive for young females to enter the field. One of the biggest issues I’ve heard (both in articles and anecdotally) is the alienation that females feel being one of few females in classroom dominated by men. Furthermore, attempting to tackle the core issue (the issue of culture) is much more difficult. How do you shape and mold culture to have a desired output, what will the unintended side-effects be? Perhaps it is more effective to address the issue at the end of the cycle (employment) rather than the beginning (development). Maybe the core of the issue can be solved by fixing the surface issue.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

rconner - well said! I would also point out that women engineers are generally paid less than male engineers with equivalent qualifications and work duties. There are many reasons for this, but the law of supply and demand says that the supply of women engineers will be lower if the pay is lower. By the way baking is actually great training for engineering. I love to bake and was delighted to see the giant hobart mixers in the concrete lab. Sewing is excellent training as well.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Perhaps we (and I suspect some folk have) should look at how other professions that were once male dominated became more equal. Medicine & Law spring to mind though I haven't double checked the stats. Why are they now more equal while engineering still has large disparity? Did they have programs like those mentioned/proposed above or was it an unforced change?

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RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Kenat - I'm on the bottom rung of management now and I can say with confidence that not just female engineers need encouragement and guidance!

Graybeach - I don't think females in my company are paid less than men (apart from pro-rataing for part timers). I don't know if this is more common in the UK or if I'm just lucky. I've been part time since I had children and whilst this has slowed my progression it hasn't killed it, again perhaps I'm lucky?

Positive role models to promote engineering to women are a good thing and something that I fully support. I went on two engineering taster courses before I applied to university, one was a WISE (Women Into Science and Engineering) event in Manchester and the other open to all in Newcastle. It was the Newcastle event that sold engineering to me (and I will be forever grateful to my physics teacher who put me forward for that course), the Manchester one was uninteresting and there were quite a lot of girls there who were only there because they had been made to go. This is probably the main reason that I've disagree with women only events throughout my career.

I'm not totally convinced by the social conditioning argument. My Mum bought me dolls and pink things when I was a young child but I still gravitated towards lego and the like. I also did a lot of cooking with my Mum and helped with the childcare as a teenager. That said I was never told that I couldn't do science/engineering and my parents supported in me in my chosen subjects/career path. I can't fathom why parents would actively discourage their girls from engineering, perhaps more visible, positive role models would be a better way forward than positive discrimination?

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

I want to be an engineer, I'm a woman, and I have had to fight my way into that almost every step of the way. I know of a lot of women who wanted to be engineers and went to school but got tired of the undercurrent of "you can't really do this."

I'm glad that's not been the experience for all women; don't discount the damage it does when it has.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

KENAT the comment "unless you're intentionally implying that the kind of male engineers that migrate to management are also a bunch of sexist pigs?" is not what I had in mind. But it is true that some of them are. I sort of had in mind that some engineers who enter into managment are pigs <end of line>. And with managers rising to the level of there incompendance, you have the worst set of conditions.

Saying engineers that go into managment are sexist pigs, is like saying NFL players commit crimes.


RE: The future of women in Engineering...

I'm always amazed that people still claim women can't or shouldn't be engineers, back in the 80's when I was in school, a significant chunk of the students were women, nobody ever questioned it. Highest proportions were in Chemical and Civil Engineering.

That said, the comment about having more women in engineer just as in medicine reminded me of a point: female doctors generally work fewer hours than male doctors, because for the most part, the female doctors have more of a priority on family. So, with more women in engineering, the spin off will likely be fewer engineers willing to work 60 and 80 hour weeks on a fixed salary. And this is a good thing for everyone.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

TenPenny maybe you just hit the clamed issue of men making more that women on the head. It may not be just that men make more then women, but that some men are willing to work many more hours than women (I don't know, but I'm trying to understand).
This is a different issue than the in general men make more than women issue in the general media, because this media issue does not take into account different occupations, or education levels.

However I know in myself, I generally don't take vacation, unless I am told "Use it or loose it", so I take December vacations..

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Wow! Home life so bad that you make excuses for staying at work? Why would that even be a male thing?

- Steve

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

(OP)

Quote (cranky108)


...I generally don't take vacation, unless I am told "Use it or loose it", so I take December vacations.

Another reason for living in California. Out here your vacation days belong to ONLY you! Granted, it's your employer's choice whether to pay you for your unused vacation days each year or whether you're allowed to accumulate them (where I work, they accumulate). Now that does not necessarily insulate your from those annual 'use em or lose em' threats coming down from corporate, just that if you live in California (and I think Illinois as well) you can simply ignore them. Of course, you may still be 'asked' to 'Please take your vacation days' since in reality these accumulated days must be carried on the books as an outstanding liability, like any other 'unpaid' invoice, which in fact those vacation days represent, at least to the 'bean-counters'.

In the case of our company it appears that until you get up to about 50 days in the bank (currently I earn 30 days per year, but often only take 15 or 20) you won't get anything more then a simple 'PLEASE take your vacation days' notice. However, I understand, from a few people who actually have managed to reach that magic number of 50 or so, that the pressure does start to rise significantly. My goal is to get at least close to the 50 number and then simply hold it at that level until I retire because at that moment they must pay you for them, which would then feel like I was getting 10 weeks of 'severance' pay and it would be paid at the rate I was making at THAT moment and not necessarily when they were actually earned (which I guess is another good reason why companies don't like the idea of allowing people to accumulate unpaid vacation days). Anyway, that's the plan and I'm about halfway there winky smile

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Home life is not that bad. It's that I don't like spending hot summer days on vacation. I would rather vacation in Winter, but the childrens school schedule limits that too.

Besides, who will feed the dog, water the yard, mow the grass, tend the garden, etc. for less than some exorbinate amount?

And where would I want to go, that is better than where I live?

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Where I used to work, you could donate those extra days to some who needed them. I gave about 30 days to a guy that was going through Chemo. He didn't get my pay grade but he did get a full check for 6 more weeks. Other people did this too. It is a way for the employer and employee to do something for someone else.

Richard A. Cornelius, P.E.
WWW.amlinereast.com

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

"This is a different issue than the in general men make more than women issue in the general media, because this media issue does not take into account different occupations, or education levels."

Cranky, I used to think similar but then heard/saw some stats that at least claimed to adjust for these and similar points and still showed a disparity. I still wonder but am more open to the idea that perhaps a significant number of women are still actually paid less for doing the same job with same experience, same output... as men.

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What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Has anyone heard of efforts to recruit males into predominantely female professions, such as nursing?

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

(OP)
I don't know whether he was recruited or not, but one of the guys in my Bible study group left engineering several years ago to go back to school to become a registered nurse. He said he had never felt that his job was as personally rewarding as was his wife's, who was already an RN. The last time the subject came up, he reiterated that it was the best career decision he had ever made.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

2
PhilBW and others, it is vital to this discussion that we realize this is not purely about equaling gender representation in various industries. What this discussion is about is the deterrents, whether they be institutional (old-boys club), cultural (gender roles) or other, that limit the number of woman in highly valued fields of employment as it relates to the more broad perception of woman in society (i.e. they are undervalued).

There is a huge difference between them. However, it’s easy to dismiss the conversation as a non-issue if we continue to conflate the two.

So as to your comment about why aren’t we having the same conversation about the lack of men in the field of nursing, the issue is not that there is a discrepancy in gender representation. The issue is that there is an over representation of woman in nursing and an under representation of woman as doctors, which comes with higher pay and more social status. Despite the fact both these positions are in the same field and should attract the same sort of people, there is a noticeable difference between the two. (a surface level response would be that the extra schooling required to become a doctor is difficult if a woman wants to start a family but I believe the issue is much deeper than this) Now, as Kenat pointed out, the medical field has seen a marked increase in female doctors in the past generation and brings up a good question of how they were able to achieve this.

My response to this would be that there is very little impact of gender roles in deterring woman from becoming doctors. In fact, “taking care of people” (if I can dissolve the field into such a simple statement) would be more of a female normative than a male. So, as the more overt forms of sexism become less and less, the doors become open for woman to enter the field. (this is not to say we can dust our hands of the issue in this industry, there is still more work to be done…but it appears to be moving in a positive direction)

In contrast, and as I have stated before, engineering/technology fields have to not only deal with institutional sexism but also cultural sexism, which can be much more subtle and difficult to address.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

I think part of what gets passed off as sexism is the notion that any women can do the job of any man. And while it is true that some women can do some of the jobs occupied by men. It is not true that any women can do the job of any man. In fact, most men can't do some jobs that other men do. Example: I would not be very good as a firejumper, I'm just not built for that (I'm also too old), and it would also be true that some women would not be able to carry a 35 lb pack 5 miles in under half an hour.

It would also be true that some women, can't do engineering, or even want to. So to me all this decision on occupation should start in high school with the guidance person. The problem I fear is the guidance people may not be very well trained, and could be the first point of discuragement, or push into the wrong direction.

After all I was never allowed to take home ec in high school, but offered several different sports, none of which I liked (I sat on the bench a lot).

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

(OP)
While I can't recall any 'guys' taking Home Economics when I was in high school, I did take typing my senior year, which was almost as bad.

You have to remember that this was back in 1964/65, well before personal computers so most people considered typing not something one of the 'guys' would be interested in. Of course, in retrospect, it was perhaps one of the only classes where I can honestly say that I learned a 'skill' that I now use everyday, that is the ability to 'touch type'. Now I was never all that fast and while I did get an 'A' in the class, it was just a single semester of Typing I, so the words-per-minute requirements to get an 'A' were not all that high, but that ability to 'touch type' has stayed with me and of course is being practiced and reinforced daily.

Note that I also took all the normal 'guy' classes like woodshop and such, and while I was never a 'jock' I did work the 'chain-gang' at football games which gave you one of the best views of the action, at least at the home games.

As for that typing thing, my younger brother, one year behind me, took two full years of typing and became very good at it. So good in fact that he claims that it saved his life. You see, when he graduated he decided not to go to college but with Vietnam starting to heat up and the draft board breathing down his neck (I avoided the draft by enrolling in ROTC while in engineering school), he decided to enlist to get a better deal and when the Army found out that he could type 70 words a minute, they offered him a place in the intelligence corp, which ostensibly was a non-combat position. But as they say, don't believe everything the recruiter tells you, as he ended-up serving two tours in Vietnam but being military intelligence he was given a position working undercover as a free-lance photojournalist (his typing skills helped with his cover) and he never even had to wear a uniform, but he did get shot once however it was only a 'flesh-wound' (he still got his Purple Heart).

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

To this day, since my high school typing class in 1974, I can still type 30 very gross words per minute.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Never could get over 20. Heck, I don't even know 10!

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

Funny, barely passed the 25 wpm required for RSA1 typing back in school.

Last time I checked I was at 45 wpm and I'm pretty sure I'm a little quicker than that though with my crummy accuracy maybe not.

I also took sewing at one point at school when most of the other guys avoided it (initially until they decided the sewing teacher was better than another stint in pottery!).

What can I say, I'm a true Renaissance manwinky smile.

(Is the fact we're talking about typing speeds in this thread in and of itself sexist?)

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RE: The future of women in Engineering...

I don't perceve any of these classes as sexist, however at the time my peers did, and that was and is a problem. However that is not as big of a problem as teachers that can't make learning fun. Any class that the kids feel is fun will be a popular elective.

So where are the teachers that can make Physics, and Chemistry fun? That's how you should inspire kids to become engineers. Even Auto Mechanics (not auto repair) can inspire kids into engineering.

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

I really enjoyed our cookery (home economics) classes. Not so sure about needlework, although my Mum still uses something I made when 12. Everyone did a spell of everything during our 1st year at secondary school.

- Steve

RE: The future of women in Engineering...

KENAT,
I'm still at 25 wpm. Kids today phone text at 50 wpm, I cannot do 2. Eleven years ago I gave my son a flexible key board and a palm pilot to take notes in 10th grade; he types at 140 wpm.
Getting back to women in Engineering, back in the late '60's our school of Engineering had 1200+ students, 6 of whom were women - needed two hands to count them! So if women are now 10% of the engineering students, that's an increase of 2000% - not bad, maybe.

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