In the engineering profession the overwhelming majority are males while females are severely underrepresented. According at an article on ASME says, “Although the number of female engineers today has greatly improved since the early 1980’s, when only 5.8% of engineers in the U.S. were women, it’s still surprisingly low. Currently, only 14% of engineers are women, according to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee.”
An article from MIT News explains a research study on why there is a discrepancy, “Overall, about 20 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees are awarded to women, but only 13 percent of the engineering workforce is female.”
To conduct the study, the researchers asked more than 40 undergraduate engineering students to keep twice-monthly diaries. The students attended four institutions in Massachusetts: MIT, the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. That generated more than 3,000 individual diary entries that the scholars systematically examined.
What emerges is a picture in which female engineering students are negatively affected at particular moments of their educational terms — especially when they engage in team-based activities outside the classroom, where, in a less structured environment, older gender roles re-emerge.
Or, as the paper puts it, “Informal interactions with peers and everyday sexism in teams and internships are particularly salient building blocks of [gender] segregation.” The researchers add: “For many women, their first encounter with collaboration is to be treated in gender stereotypical ways.”
The paragraph above explains why some women drop out of engineering or not start at all. These statistics are glaring but there is hope if we can work together to bring about change to the gender gap in engineering.
What do you think should be done about the gender gap in engineering? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment and sharing. For now thanks for reading!