Women in engineering

The representation of women in engineering is much lower than that of men.

A UNESCO report on the topic provides interesting data.  In Europe and North America, the number of graduates in engineering, physics, mathematics and information technology is generally low. Women make up only 19% of engineers in Canada, Germany, and the United States and 22% in Finland.  In Israel, where 28% of senior academic staff are women, they remain marginal in engineering (14%), physical sciences (11%), mathematics and information technology (10%) but dominate education (52%) and the health professions (63%). In Japan and the Republic of Korea, women represent only 5% and 10% of engineers. These two countries present the greatest gaps in terms of remuneration between men and women researchers of any member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, namely 29% for Japan and 39% for the Republic of Korea.

However, there are some bright spots:  50% of engineering graduates are women in Cyprus, 38% in Denmark and 36% in the Russian Federation, for example.

What hinders women from full participation in the engineering industry?

The AAUW’s research report,  Solving the Equation, highlights recent research exploring the factors behind the under-representation of women in these fields, including stereotypes and prejudices and the work environment.

The thesis advocated by the Harvard Business Review states that the engineering culture – shared values, beliefs and norms – contributes to the under-representation of women in the profession and therefore represents a threat to the social identity of the female gender in industry.

Hundreds of studies have underlined the existence of the so-called “stereotypical threat”, ie the psychological situation during which women would feel at risk of being categorized as belonging to a social group on which negative stereotypes are concerned. This situation negatively affects women’s intellectual performance and does not allow full exploration of their potential. The research conducted by AAUW suggests that stereotypes are activated for women more frequently when few women work in an organization, so in a situation where it is difficult to create a feeling of belonging.

The percentage of women engineers who leave the profession is much higher than that of male colleagues. This also happens because of the lack of sense of adaptation to the role of the engineer in the workplace.

According to the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030,  only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry or medicine since Marie Curie in 1903, compared to 572 men. Today, only 28% of all of the world’s researchers are women. Such huge disparities, such deep inequality, do not happen by chance. The United Nations General Assembly in 2015 decided to introduce education and gender equality as an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Inequality is a brake on progress, this is why,  to ensure sustainable development of the world, it is needed to foster the full participation of girls and women in both science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and work.

Gender equality is more than a question of justice or equity. Countries, businesses, and institutions which create an enabling environment for women increase their innovative capacity and competitiveness. The scientific endeavor benefits from the creativity and vibrancy of the interaction of different perspectives and expertise. Gender equality will encourage new solutions and expand the scope of research. This should be considered a priority by all if the global community is serious about reaching the next set of development goals” UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030

In conclusion, the expansion of women’s representation in engineering requires a joint effort by educational institutions and work environments that promote education to female role models in engineering and that eliminate implicit prejudices for men and women. Engineering and computer science are distinguished from the widest STEM category to be accounting for over 80% of the workforce, offering a varied range of high-quality opportunities. Diversity in the workforce contributes to creativity, productivity, and innovation. Women’s experiences, together with the experiences of men, should shape the future of engineering and technical innovation.

At Trace Software International we strongly believe that efforts should be focused on gender neutrality. When we are looking for a professional, the focus is solely on the human capital, the educational background, skills and cultural fit necessary to participate in the company’s success.

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