Group dynamics within teams and internships have been blamed for discouraging women within the industry in a study co-authored by MIT sociologists.
We have focused on a number of inspiring stories of women in Engineering in our “Born to Engineer” series, and whilst the situation has improved over the last decade there still remains much to be done.
Understanding the challenges facing women in Engineering has always been key to improving how many women are attracted to the profession, and how well the industry can retain them. The new study in the journal Work and Occupations is helpful in highlighting issues the sector will need to tackle.
The study concludes that women who embark on careers in engineering are much less likely to stay within the industry than males as a result of being given less challenging problems during team-based work initiatives, particularly within internships.
Researchers discovered that gender dynamics appear to generate extra opportunities for males to work on difficult problems, whereas women are assigned routine tasks or managerial duties.
Susan Sibley, Professor of Humanities, Sociology and Anthropology at MIT points to“negative group dynamics” during team-based work projects as “make[ing] a big difference” in disillusioning women who had anticipated making positive social impact as engineers.
The study was based on twice-monthly diaries which more than 40 undergraduate engineering students were asked to keep. The resulting 3,000 individual diary were then systematically examined.
Professor Sibley explained that “female engineering students [were] negatively affected at particular moments of their educational terms […] where, in a less structured environment, older gender roles re-emerge”
The full paper can be found in the journal Work and Occupations.
Wednesday 23 June is National Women in Engineering Day (#NWED2016)
It is a campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. For more information please download the National Women in Engineering Day Resource Pack