There’s good news, and there’s bad news.
First the good: more women are entering engineering – over the last two decades, women accounted for over 20% of all engineering school grads. The bad news? Many aren’t staying in the industry.
As Nadya Fouad of the University of Wisconsin presented to the American Psychological Association recently, nearly 40% of women who earn engineering degrees either quit the profession or don’t enter at all. The reason? Fouad reports that the “good old boys” network is still alive and well. Her findings show that women are more vulnerable to being pushed out – not finding the opportunities for training and advancement, as well as achieving a work-life balance.
Looking at women who left the field more than 5 years ago, two-thirds said they pursued better opportunities in other fields while a third stayed home with children because their employers didn’t accommodate work-life concerns.
“Current women engineers become a flight risk when they experience a career plateau with few advancement opportunities, poor treatment by managers and co-workers and a culture that stresses taking work home or working on weekends with no support for managing multiple life roles,” Fouad said.
Fouad reminds us that wanting to spend time with children isn’t an issue specific to women – the reasons one would stay in engineering are similar to why they would leave: advancement opportunities, and work climate.