Women in Engineering: Breaking the Glass Ceiling

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MARCH 8, 2024

For centuries, men have dominated and represented the engineering field. Women have long been underrepresented in most of the engineering fields. From designing skyscrapers to complicated HVAC designs, history boasted male engineers’ names rather than women engineers. But the power of womanhood has shattered the stereotypes and smashed the glass ceiling in recent years. Yes, women are making significant endeavors in the engineering landscape with their knowledge, wisdom, strength, and leadership. 

This article, especially on the occasion where we are celebrating International Women’s Day, sheds light on the journey of women in engineering. Exploring the barriers, the incredible achievements and progress, ongoing efforts for women’s inclusion, and the spotlight on amazing women who have already paved the way for many aspiring women engineers.

Why women in engineering are underrepresented?

1. Societal stereotypes

Our society has a fixed mindset and perception about engineering roles that women are not meant to be in engineering sites and workplaces. These stereotypes will discourage women from pursuing engineering careers and make them feel excluded from engineering roles.

2. Lack of role models

If we are noticing, we might not see a considerable number of visible women engineer role models in our society. This will make it difficult for aspiring female engineers to envision their career in engineering. Without a role model to look up to, they may struggle to choose engineering as a feasible career path.

3. Implicit gender bias

Unconscious stereotypes, prejudices, and gender bias sustained in workplaces and society can influence lots of processes. This means influence on decision-making processes in recruitment, hiring, promotions, rewards, and all. Women may face these biases and they will be offered unequal opportunities and unfair career development for their contributions.

4. Work-life balance

Women are often considered to have caregiving responsibilities and homemaking duties in their personal lives. Engineering roles require long hours, strict project deadlines, and demanding projects, which will make it challenging for women to balance their personal and professional lives.

Some other reasons and challenges for women’s representation in the workplace are:

  • Lack of mentorship and support
  • Hostile work environments
  • Educational barriers
  • Lack of representation in leadership

Current statistics of women in engineering

  1. As of 2022, women comprised approximately 16% of professionals who are working in architecture and engineering occupations. [Source: fictiv.com].
  2. As per the Society of Women Engineers, there are positive changes in engineering graduates as women. The percentage of engineering bachelor degrees awarded to females has risen to around 21%. [Source: Society of Women Engineers].
  3. LinkedIn Pulse article shows that even though graduation rates are increasing, a significant number of women don’t pursue engineering careers after graduation. Estimated that approximately a quarter of women engineering graduates might not enter the engineering field.
  4. With approximately 46% of strength, women are more present in the biomedical engineering discipline. The lowest representation is marked in Mechanical engineering which is less than 10%.

Source: https://www.careerexplorer.com/careers/biomedical-engineer/demographics/#gender-interest-mix

Why women in engineering matters- Benefits of gender inclusion

The importance of women in the workplace is not just to ensure gender quality at workplaces. Their skillset, diverse thought processes, innovative ideas, and problem-solving skills contribute highly to team success and project success. Here are a few key reasons why we should invest in initiating women-inclusive work environments.

1. Diversity of perspectives

Women professionals bring a variety of perspectives, ideas, approaches, strategies, and experiences to different projects in engineering. The inclusion of women into the workforce will let the team tap into a wider range of innovative ideas and lead to better results. 

2. Enhanced creativity and innovation

Research and studies show that engineering teams that have gender inclusiveness perform well and are more creative. These teams have shown better interest in being more innovative and better at thinking outside the box. The combination of diverse knowledge and ideas will foster a culture of innovation.

3. Improved decision-making

Gender-diverse teams improve the decision-making capabilities of the team. Women bring diverse skills and ways of communication to the table. This practice will complement the male engineers in many of their counterparts. By developing teams with a mix of genders, organizations can witness more robust and well-versed decision making processes.

4. Role models for the next generation

Women leading in good positions and important engineering roles give inspiration to young girls who want to pursue engineering careers. When women are showing success and proving their professional growth, many girls will get inspired and enter the engineering field more. This will break the stereotypes and bias in society.

Best practices to build inclusive future

How can we smash the glass ceiling to develop a welcoming environment for women? It is an important question and proactive measure to take for women’s empowerment. Here are some key methods we can implement to build a women-inclusive future workforce in engineering.

1. Promote STEM education for girls

Encourage girls to do STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education at an early age. Conducting workshops, mentorship programs and training programs will create interest in girls to go for engineering fields.

2. Foster mentorship and support networks

Establish mentorship programs where women engineers can connect with other engineers. These mentorship programs will help them to seek the guidance, advice, and support they need to grow in their careers. Build support networks that can be online and offline where they can connect, share experiences, and be support systems for each other. 

3. Implement gender-inclusive policies

Develop recruitment policies and employee policies in favor of avoiding gender bias at workplaces. Include a gender-diverse interview panel during the hiring process to ensure the decision-making on potential employees is not biased. The policies should promote gender equality in promotions, terminations, and appraisals. Offer policies that will include family-friendly clauses to promote work-life balance for everyone. These policies include parental leaves, childcare facilities, flexible work arrangements, etc.  

4. Acknowledge and celebrate the achievements

Celebrate contributions, achievements, and every important career milestone publicly regardless of gender. These can be through mails, reward programs, bonuses, social media posting, and even a public event. This will consequently improve the morale of employees and create a more inclusive work culture.

Success stories: 5 famous women engineers in history

1. Edith Clarke

  • The first female engineer in history.
  • The first woman to earn an electrical engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • In 1921, she received her first patent for the Clarke Calculator, a device that was used to solve electric power transmission line issues.
  • She became the nation’s first female electrical engineering professor after accepting a 10-year teaching position at the University of Texas.

2. Emily Roebling

  • The Brooklyn Bridge, which was finished in 1883, is the project for which Emily Roebling is most well-known.
  • Rose to the position of standing leader for the bridge’s construction because of her increasing skill in project management, construction, and math.

3. Hedy Lamarr

  • In addition to being a talented actress, Hedy Lamarr (shown below) was also a clever female inventor. 
  • She came up with a technique for encrypting signals to keep enemy spies from listening to private information.

4. Ada Lovelace

  • Ada was the first to see the Analytical Engine’s potential as a computer-like instrument.
  • She was essentially the first person to program a computer, having existed for over a century before the device itself!

5. Bertha Benz

  • Despite the fact that her husband Carl Benz is most recognized for creating the vehicle, Bertha and Carl collaborated, and Bertha is deserving of a spot in the annals of history!
  • Her 194-kilometer journey epitomizes the bravery of automotive pioneers who launched the vehicle age!

Denken Solutions for women inclusion

Denken Solutions is dedicated and committed to fostering gender inclusion and women empowerment in the workplace. We believe in the importance of diversity and offering equal opportunity for every individual. We strive to create a positive environment for our employees where they feel valued and respected.

Are you searching for women engineers to empower your dream team with diverse perspectives and enhanced productivity? Then consider partnering with Denken Solutions today! 

By partnering with Denken Solutions, organizations can unlock the full potential of women in engineering and create a thriving, diverse team for a brighter future.

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