The reality of women in engineering leadership
Last month, I wrote about the need for mentoring to get more young people — young women, in particular — studying engineering and entering the field. There’s a reason for this. Despite strong recruiting efforts, women just aren’t entering the engineering space.
According to research by the Society of Women Engineers, while more women are entering STEM occupations, the bulk of them are heading into the life sciences, where the gender gap has continued to close. But, says SWE, “the percentage of women in engineering and computer science occupations has stagnated.” In 2017, a mere 13% of engineers were women, while computer and mathematical occupations came in at 26%. Female chemists and material scientists made up 38% of that workforce and more than half — 54% — of biological scientists were women. When you break it down further, only 7% of mechanical engineers are female compared to 25% of environmental engineers.
What’s wrong with this picture? Why do women continue to shy away from engineering careers?
I think much of this can be attributed to perception. Women continue to perceive engineering as a man’s profession, where strong women are far and few between and where they don’t belong. They need to see more strong role models, to see women who were excellent students, now creating and designing powerful machines, leading manufacturers to the top of their games with innovative ideas, and inspiring teams every day.
That’s one of the reasons our sister publication, Design World, is launching a special Women in Engineering issue this November. As editors who work with engineers on a daily basis, we know that women have always made important contributions to the engineering field — but have not often been acknowledged. We would like to take this opportunity to recognize women in different points in their careers, across our industry.
Our editorial staff is profiling women who are doing interesting work in the design engineering space at OEMs big and small. We are seeking out the best and the brightest, from patent-holding design engineers to team leaders and managers who inspire their teams every day.
I’d love to be introduced to more of these amazing women, so if you work with someone you think should be on this list, please reach out through the email address below.
Mary C. Gannon
On Twitter @DW_marygannon