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    Women have long been one of the least represented demographics in engineering. According to the National Science Foundation, of 973,000 total employed engineers with bachelor’s degrees, only 132,000 (13.6 percent) are women. The same holds true for engineers with advanced degrees – only 18 percent of employed engineers with master’s degrees and 14 percent of those with doctorate degrees are women.

     

    The number of women varies across engineering disciplines. The three engineering professions with the most women are:

     

    • Civil Engineering (23,000)
    • Electrical Engineering (20,000)
    • Mechanical Engineering (14,000)

    Conversely, disciplines with the lowest representation of women include:

    • Chemical Engineering (10,000)
    • Industrial Engineering (8,000)
    • Aerospace Engineering (5,000)

    Dianne Kibbey, Global Head of Community at element14, believes the root of the problem is cultural. Engineering emphasizes the belief in raw, innate talent versus something that can be learned. The more academics in a field believe their area of study requires certain abilities that just “can’t be taught,” the fewer women there will be in those fields.While there is no exact explanation as to why few women choose engineering careers, additional contributing factors include:

    Women are less likely to be exposed to engineering at a young age.

    While young boys might receive Legos or toy cars growing up, girls don’t often receive toys that initiate interest in engineering. Society needs to make an effort to market more toys toward girls that encourage building structures, computer programming and other types of engineering.

    There’s a lack of marketing and recruitment efforts geared toward women engineers.

    Women are hesitant to enter a male-dominated industry in the first place, and the field itself has room for improvement in its efforts to attract more female talent. This can include letting women know about the vast job opportunities available in the industry, publicizing compelling stories about women engineers and reaching out to organizations or institutions specifically geared toward women to recruit the best talent.

    Engineering has been stereotyped as a “boys club.”

    In recent years, there have been many reports of women leaving engineering careers due to discrimination in the workplace – such as being overlooked for promotions and raises. However, cases like these should not shine a permanent negative light on the industry. To attract and retain female engineering talent, the pay and promotion gap needs to be addressed and success stories about women engineers who have risen to the top of the field must be highlighted.This is Part I in a three-part series.