Female engineers are leaving the field because they are not taken seriously, according to a new study.
The study found that unchallenging projects, blatant sexual harassment and greater isolation from support networks contribute to women’s exit from engineering.
The study followed 700 students from four schools – MIT, UMass, Olin College of Engineering, and the women-only Picker Engineering Program at Smith College – during their four years of college and again five years after they graduated.
Co-author of the research, Professor Brian Rubineau said, “Although engineering programs have focused on reforming their curricula to encourage women’s participation, we are finding that social interactions outside of classrooms are contributing substantially to women’s negative experiences of the field.”
“It is clear that engineering schools must broaden their efforts beyond the classroom to ensure they are not only attracting top female talent, but retaining it.”
“Many of the women in our study experienced blatant gender bias in their project teams and internships.”
“Much of the hands-on aspects of engineering are treated as men’s work, with women relegated to more secretarial duties.”
“This culture of sexism and stereotyping sidelines qualified women, who then often choose a different career path.”
“A second source of this gendered discontent concerns the role of engineers in society. Women, moreso than men, cite engineering’s potential for improving society as their motivation for pursuing a career within the field.”
“But in their internships, women saw only lip service offered towards improving society. Disillusioned, these women are often inclined to change career path to find a better cultural alignment with their values and goals.”