It’s the workplace, stupid, says new study on female engineer dropouts

Nearly 40 percent of women with engineering degrees leave the profession or never enter the field, according to a new study, reported by National Public Radio.

It’s not due to a lack of confidence, a dearth of mentors or the glass ceiling, according to the study. No, what’s pushing them out is the workplace culture, the study’s lead author recently announced at the American Psychological Association convention in Washington, D. C.

It’s a phenomenon that my former colleague Mike Cassidy addressed in a special report last year. Women are missing out on computer science careers.

The recent study looked at why even though 20 percent of engineering graduates are women, just 11 percent of working engineers are women.

The study looked at more than 5,000 women who had received engineering degrees over six decades. It found that it didn’t matter what kind of engineering women specialized in or the industry they entered. The women faced similar work culture issues.

Nadya Fouad, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin and the study’s lead author, said:

Women’s departure from engineering is not just an issue of ‘leaning in.’  It’s about changing the work environment.

In a recent interview with USA Today, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, declined to say whether the percentage of women engineers has grown since she joined the firm. But she said she has been paying attention:

There was such a big deal made when women won 20% of the Senate seats. All the articles kept saying: Women take over the Senate, women take over the Senate. This is in the last election. Fifty percent of the population with 20% of the seats is not a takeover. It’s a problem. Our expectation needs to be 50%.

Above: Janet Napolitano, now the president of the University of California, poses for pictures with members of the Society for Women Engineers.  (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)




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