Asee peer logo

Gendering Engineering Leadership: Aspirations vs. Shoulder Tapping

Download Paper |

Conference

2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015

ISBN

978-0-692-50180-1

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division: Retaining and Developing Women Faculty in STEM

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

10

Page Numbers

26.815.1 - 26.815.10

DOI

10.18260/p.24152

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/24152

Download Count

182

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Cindy Rottmann University of Toronto

visit author page

Cindy Rottmann is a Research Associate at the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead) at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include engineering leadership, engineering ethics education, critical theory, teacher leadership and social justice teacher unionism.

visit author page

biography

Robin Sacks University of Toronto

visit author page

Dr. Sacks is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto teaching leadership and positive psychology at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Robin also serves as the Director of Research for the Engineering Leadership Project at the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering which aims to identify how engineers lead in the workplace.

visit author page

biography

Annie Elisabeth Simpson Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering

visit author page

Annie is the Assistant Director of the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral work focusses on young women and leadership development. She has her Masters degree in Adult Education and Counselling Psychology. Annie teaches courses, designs experiential curriculum, and contributes to the strategic direction of ILead.

visit author page

biography

Doug Reeve P.Eng. University of Toronto

visit author page

Professor Reeve is the founding Director of the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead) at the University of Toronto. Providing opportunities for leadership learning has been central to his work with engineering students for over twenty-five years. Dr. Reeve is a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry and served as Chair from 2001-2011.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

Gendering Engineering Leadership: Aspirations vs. Shoulder TappingContext & Objective:Despite some progress, women and other minoritized groups continue to be under-representedin faculties of engineering and engineering workplaces (ASCE, 2001; Holmes, 2013; Layne,2007; NSERC, 2010), a disparity that intensifies at each stage of an engineers’ career (Bhatia &Amati, 2010; Fouad, 2014). Our primary objective in this paper is to examine two possibleexplanations for this disparity—individual women’s disinterest in leadership and structuralconstraints limiting their rise.Relevance to WIED (Women in Engineering Division):Our paper touches on two WIED foci: leadership and workplace climate for women inengineering.Methodology:Our primary source of data for this paper is a survey of 175 engineers working for twointernational organizations with head offices in Canada. We solicited information aboutparticipants’ 1) background characteristics 2) leadership orientations across time and situation,and 3) their evaluation of the skills and traits of exemplary leaders. We began with a factoranalysis to identify the underlying constructs tapped by our survey, then examined how thesefactors were distributed across the sample. While gender was not an explicit focus of ourengineering leadership survey, our early parsing of data led us to isolate participant sex as avariable for study.Findings:The following four factors explained 63% of participants’ item response variance to 31questions about their leadership orientations as engineers: 1) technical application, 2)collaboration, 3) organizational influence and 4) entrepreneurship. The first two factorsidentified participants’ working style preferences, while the second two indicated their affinityfor leadership. Across the sample, 36% of individuals prioritized technical application, 24%prioritized collaboration, 32% prioritized organizational influence, and 8% prioritizedentrepreneurialism. When we analyzed these findings by sex, we found that men’s and women’sfactor priorities differed slightly when it came to technical vs collaborative work, with morewomen than men favouring collaborative work, but there was no significant difference betweenmen’s and women’s prioritization of the two leadership factors—organizational influence andentrepreneurialism. This suggests that male engineers are no more attracted to leadership thanare female engineers. Interestingly, when we asked participants to identify three exemplaryengineering leaders in the final section of the survey, both men and women identified men at asignificantly higher rate than would be justified by workplace demographics. 91% of identifiedleaders were male.Conclusions & Implications:Our findings suggest that while male and female engineers are attracted to leadership at asimilar rate, men are considerably more likely than their female counterparts to be shoulder-tapped by both male and female colleagues as exemplary leadership material. One implicationof this finding for improved gender equity in engineering leadership is that promotion on thebasis of “shoulder tapping” or “fit” is more likely to privilege men than is promotion on thebasis of individuals’ aspirations or working preferences. Allowing male and female engineers toself-identify for leadership opportunities is one of many human resources strategies to reducedemographic disparities in the engineering profession.

Rottmann, C., & Sacks, R., & Simpson, A. E., & Reeve, D. (2015, June), Gendering Engineering Leadership: Aspirations vs. Shoulder Tapping Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24152

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015