Why Women Engineers Leave the Profession

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by Alex A. Kecskes

Today, over 20 percent of engineering school graduates are women, yet just 11 percent of working engineers are female. What accounts for this "female flight" out of engineering?

A recent study countered the commonly held belief that women leave their engineering jobs for family reasons. Instead, what drives women away is more likely to be an uncomfortable work environment.

Specific reasons cited for leaving include poor working conditions, limited career advancement and low salary. Only 25 percent left to spend more time with their family.

The ongoing, online survey of 3,700 women consisted of four groups: currently employed engineers; degreed and not working as engineers; women who left engineering more than five years ago; and those who left less than five years ago. Nearly 33 percent of women noted their reluctance to enter engineering after graduation, citing the field's perceived inflexible workplace culture and unsupportive atmosphere.

Some women engineers said their supervisors and co-workers treated them in a condescending, patronizing manner, so they left the field. Other factors cited by some include long working hours, poor planning and muddled objectives. Some women objected to taking work home with them and having to travel "on a moment's notice." That said, there are undoubtedly many men who have problems with today's engineering workplace and politics.

The study concluded that engineering schools should apprise women of the engineering workplace, its needs and culture. It further advised engineering employers to adopt better workplace practices and remove any hostile workplace cultures toward women.

Do you think women are getting a fair shake in the engineering field? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients. Please see more of his blogs and view additional job postings on Nexxt.

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