The demand for projects and products that require high level engineering expertise is growing exponentially in the global economy, and the need for engineering professionals has never been higher. While studies routinely demonstrate that girls possess similar aptitude for Science- and Engineering-related subjects as their male counterparts, women don’t pursue degrees in these areas in nearly the same numbers as men. Consequently, the most recent U.S. job market statistics show that women account for only 12 percent of all engineering professionals.
How can employers, educators, professionals and parents help close the gap? A new research report from AAUW has some answers:
1. Take the implicit bias test.
Though most of us tend to believe we are without bias, that isn’t the case. Even one of the creators of the test found that she had implicit racial and gender biases.
2. Remember that engineers are made, not born.
Despite traditional messaging to kids that math and science prowess is inherent for some and not for others, these skills are learned through study and practice.
3. Let the girls in your life tinker with things, break toys, get dirty and fail.
Engineers routinely face failure in the design process. Learning from and moving past failure is simply part of the journey.
4. Know that Title IX is about more than athletics.
Equal access/opportunity doesn’t just apply to women’s athletics. Science, math and engineering subjects are a crucial part of a university’s Title IX policies, and schools are required to ensure access is provided and equality achieved for girls seeking to pursue degrees in these fields.
5. Spread the word that engineering and computing fields have enormous social impact.
Data illustrate that women often prioritize “communal goals” in their careers, so it is important for influencers to demonstrate how engineering professions help people/communities.
6. Role models matter.
It is important for female engineering professionals to seek out opportunities to serve as role models for girls and young women through groups and events that celebrate women in the field.
7. Males play a key role.
Male engineering professionals can demonstrate attitudes and behaviors that empower their female counterparts. For example, they might refuse to sit on advisory panels that don’t have any female participants.
8. Managerial accountability is important.
Employers should hold managers accountable for their hiring and promotion decisions.
9. Hiring processes/practices should be equitable.
If you’re a manager, try removing gender info from job applications and evaluations.
10. Executives set the tone.
Top-level executives should emphasize that attracting and retaining women is a priority for the organization.