Academic Study Examines Why Women Leave the Field of Engineering

silbeyA new study led by MIT Professor Susan S. Silbey and published in the Harvard Business Review, examines the reasons why women leave the field of engineering. The report says that women make up 20 percent of all graduates who earn higher education degrees in engineering but are only 13 percent of the engineering workforce. The authors state that 40 percent of all women who graduate with engineering degrees never enter the engineering workforce or drop out once they are employed in engineering.

The researchers followed 700 engineering students and surveyed them in college and five years after they earned their degrees. The authors note that in school and once women are employed in engineering, they often have to work in groups. And the women in the study noted that they were often marginalized within these group projects. In college, some women believed their professors held stereotypical opinions of their abilities. Many of the women surveyed said they encountered an environment were sexism and gender stereotypes existed and were left unaddressed.

Professor Silbey concludes that “educators and businesses need to pay more attention to how an occupation founded on a commitment to complex problem-solving so consistently fails to repair its well-documented gender problem.”

Dr. Silbey is the Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities, professor of sociology and anthropology, and professor of behavioral and policy sciences in the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a graduate of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York System and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago.

Filed Under: Research/StudySexual Assault/HarassmentSTEM Fields


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