Women in Engineering Are Tracked Into Management, Not Technical, Roles

A new study by M. Teresa Cardador, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois, finds that increased female representation in the managerial ranks of engineering organizations may be having some unintended negative consequences.

Dr. Cardador reports that women engineers are now in managerial roles in numbers disproportionate to their overall representation as engineering employees, which is about 15 percent nationwide. She notes that efforts to promote women to managers, leaves smaller numbers of women in technical fields in engineering.

“In business, the highest-status positions tend to be managerial. But in engineering, technical ability is revered while management is what you do if you have good organizational and communication skills,” Professor Cardador says. “Women are stereotyped as having less technical competence in engineering, which perhaps explains why men are much more likely to remain on the technical side and women are tracked into the management side.”

Professor Cardador joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 2009. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master of public health degree from the University of California and a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from the University of Illinois.

The study, “Promoted Up But Also Out? The Unintended Consequences of Increasing Women’s Representation in Managerial Roles in Engineering,” was published on the website of the journal Organization Science. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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