A new study has discovered that women with engineering degrees either end up leaving their jobs, or don't take up the profession at all. The research showed that the reason behind nearly 40 percent of women who leave or never enter the field despite having their degrees, was poor workplace climates and mistreatment by managers and co-workers.
Nadya Fouad, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said that while women accounted for more than 20 percent of engineering school graduates over the past two decades, only 11 percent of them were practicing engineers, and 9 percent were electronic and environmental engineers. The results were from the first phase of a three-year National Science Foundation study that surveyed 5,300 engineering alumnae spanning six decades, mostly from the 30 universities with the highest number of women engineering graduates and from 200 other universities.
While 62 percent of the women surveyed persisted in their careers as engineers, 11 percent never entered the field, 21 percent left more than five years ago, and 6 percent left less than five years ago. Among women who left less than five years ago, two-thirds said they pursued better opportunities in other fields while a third stayed home with children because companies didn't accommodate work-life concerns, Fouad said. Among those who went to other industries, 54 percent became executives, 22 percent were in management and 24 percent worked as staff members.
Women who left engineering more than five years ago said their decision was due to care giving responsibilities (17 percent), no opportunities for advancement (12 percent) and lost interest in engineering (12 percent). More than two-thirds continued working and among those, 55 percent were executives, 15 percent were managers and 30 percent were staff members.
Women who persisted in their engineering careers worked on average 44 hours a week and earned salaries between 76,000 dollars and 125,000 dollars a year. About 15 percent were executives, a third project managers and the remainder staff members. Supportive bosses and co-workers, and organizations that recognize their contributions, provide training and paths for advancement and support a work-life balance were reasons women gave for staying in their jobs.
The findings were presented at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention.