Why women shun engineering as a career – new research

Why women shun engineering as a career – new research

In an age where technology and engineering is changing the way we live at an unprecedented rate, New Zealand is reflecting the latest research in the United States on the abysmal representation of women in engineering.

The new research in the Unites States by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee shows nearly 40% of women who earn engineering degrees quit the profession or never enter the field. And while women account for more than 20% of engineering school graduates over the past 20 years only 11% of practicing engineers are women and just 9% of electronic and environmental engineers are female.

The most recent research in New Zealand, in 2012, showed just 12% of women were enrolled in Engineering Diplomas and 21% in Bachelor of Engineering Technology or Bachelor of Engineering with Honours Degrees. Overall, women make up approximately 13% of engineers in New Zealand.

Tracey Ayre, Policy Advisor and Project Manager, Women in Engineering at The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ), said research showed stereotyping and workplace culture - particularly the long hours, lack of visible role models and transparency in pay - were key reasons Kiwi women were not taking up or sticking with the profession.

“We found girls' perceptions of their abilities in science and maths was also a factor, despite education data showing young women perform as well, if not better than, their male counterparts at school,” she said.

“Many of those (in engineering) are young and in the less-experienced end of the career spectrum. One of the things we are doing at IPENZ is working with engineering CEOs to encourage change to the profession's culture and working model.”

Kiwi women are also shunning technology and computer science based career. This was the topic of an opinion piece by Dr Mahsa Mohaghegh, a lecturer at Unitec and the winner of the 2013 Emerging Leader in the Women of Influence Awards.

The new research presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention over the weekend, showed women engineers left their jobs because of poor workplace climates and mistreatment by managers and co-workers.

The findings were from the first phase of a three-year National Science Foundation study that surveyed 5,300 engineering alumnae spanning six decades.

For more information on the US finding click here.

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