Researchers at the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology have tackled one of the biggest questions plaguing the engineering industry: Where are all the women? The last two years have been landmark years for universities that have prioritised closing the gender gap that exists in the engineering world. Some universities ensure to have at least 30 percent female attendance in their engineering courses. Some universities have even ensured that half of the classes are female. However, aside of the strides being made in getting women into engineering, MIT has found that some issues arise once they have arrived in the industry, as well. The researchers took a look at why women leave engineering. 

We recently reported that Engineers Australia's study into gender gaps in engineering said that less than 1% of Australian women past the age of 50 years old are currently working in the industry. Meaning, the other women who used to work in the industry had all left the industry before the age of 50. According to the Telegraph, only 9% of the United Kingdoms' engineering workforce is female. Furthermore, Jobsite's study into female engineering saw that there are three times the number of female engineers in the 20-24 age bracket than there are in the 40-44 bracket. 

EIT Stock ImageSusan Silbey, a Professor of Humanities, Sociology and Anthropology at MIT with regards to the engineering industry, said: "It turns out gender makes a big difference. It's a cultural phenomenon." The paper she co-authored is titled: Persistence is Cultural: Professional Socialization and the Reproduction of Sex Segregation. The report focuses on engineering relatively closely, revealing that women become "disillusioned with their career prospects" once they aim to achieve big goals in the engineering industry. 

They also crunched the numbers and unveiled their results in the report:

  • Women account for 20 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees
  • 13% of the engineering workforce is female (U.S.)

The research included the study of 40 undergraduate engineering students who wrote in diaries twice every month. They had 3,000 diary entries to peruse and generate data from. What they found is that when female engineers are involved with team-based activities outside of the lecture halls, gender stereotypes run rampant. 

One of the diaries that detailed a robot-designing brainstorming session, showed what kind of gender discrimination occurred: "...two girls in a group had been working on the robot we were building in that class for hours, and the guys in their group came in and within minutes had sentenced them to doing menial tasks while the guys went and had all the fun in the machine shop. We heard the girls complaining about it..."

 

 

Source: MIT News