It’s a time to celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of women engineers across the world. International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), held annually on 23 June, is an international awareness campaign that calls on women to shape the world. INWED is also an important opportunity to raise awareness around a stubborn problem: women engineers are desperately needed, but there are few women in these roles.
While the current number of college educated women outnumber men, just 13% work in engineering. This represents a major lack of diversity in the engineering workforce. This is especially prevalent in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), where biased applications have the potential to cause real-world harm for women and racial minorities. For example, a recent AI model used by a major tech company to screen new employees was found to choose male over female candidates.
Pay disparities and a lack of work-life-balance can also be major barriers for women in engineering. According to Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, women engineers make about $8,000 less than their male peers (Black and Latinx women make about $14,000 less). Women are also more likely than men to sacrifice their careers after having children, a problem that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Future Needs Engineers. Women Want to Help
Studies show that women can fill vital positions in the engineering workforce, particularly the energy sector. A recent report from the National Grid revealed that the United Kingdom’s energy secretary alone will need 400,000 engineers in order to reach climate change goals over the next two decades. According to the same study, 83% of women say they are willing to help the U.K. meet its target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
“It’s an exciting time for the sector—there’s huge potential to really open up engineering to women who are technically minded and interested, and who want to make a difference and an impact,” Dawn Childs, UK Change Director at National Grid plc and President of the Women’s Engineering Society, told Forbes. “That can be a more compelling message.”
Want to Make Your Organization More Female Friendly? Give Them a Community
An effective way to make your organization more welcoming to women is to offer them a community at work.
“As 32% of women transfer out of STEM degree programs in college, it’s shown that community is particularly important in helping women be successful and feel connected, more so than men,” writes Selu Gupta, an engineer who created a women in tech group at Tektronix in 2016, in Electronic Design. “Women are in greater need of partnership because they’re already fighting against stigmas, siloes, and imposter syndrome.”
In the five years since Gupta started the group, it has grown to 300 members. According to Gupta, it has become “an influential part of the overall Tektronix culture.”
“While fostering networking, community, and collaboration, the group has led to an increase in the number of women in engineering and leadership positions at Tektronix. We have a female CEO and a gender-balanced executive team,” Gupta writes.
Adding more women to your ranks does more than diversify your workforce—it can also make your organization more competitive. According to a 2019 report from the Australian Academy of Science, organizations with gender-diverse leadership were more successful than those consisting of mostly men. Read more about how organizations can foster career growth for women in STEM.
Create Leaders in Organization
IEEE has partnered with Rutgers Business School to offer the IEEE | Rutgers Online Mini-MBA. Designed specifically for groups of ten or more within an organization, this program operates entirely online. It features topics including business strategy, managing product development, finance, negotiation, managing human capital, intellectual property strategy, and transformational agility.
Participants will learn how to make organizational decisions with both technical and operational considerations. After developing an understanding of how different functional groups interact to achieve overall goals, they will learn to apply their newly developed business skills to better align their technical capabilities with business strategy.
The program offers the option of a customized capstone project, completely aligned to the needs of your organization. As part of the project, you’ll receive feedback from program professors who have worked as engineering leaders themselves.
To learn more about the IEEE | Rutgers Online Mini-MBA for your organization, contact an IEEE Account Manager today.
Gupta, Selu. (13 May 2021). Where Are the Women Engineers? Electronic Design.
Burnford, Joy. (11 Feb 2021). The Engineering Journey: A Woman’s View. Forbes.
2019. Women in STEM Decadal Plan. Australian Academy of Science.