June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Women in Engineering
22.1103.1 - 22.1103.14
Not all women leave! Reflections on a cohort of “stayers” in civil engineeringCountless studies and statistical reports indicate that a disturbingly high number of women leave theengineering profession within 10 to 15 years of graduation. Many reasons have been suggested toexplain this phenomenon, the most common being that engineering workplace cultures and workpractices are uncomfortable for many women, a situation made worse by the lack of family-friendlypolicies and/or policy implementation. Thus for many women the engineering workplace comprisesthe last exit point of what has been termed the ’leaky pipeline’ describing the career progression ofwomen in STEM fields.This paper reports on a study of a group of women who have remained in the engineeringprofession. The persistence of women in engineering was not the first focus of the enquiry however.Rather, the initial intention was to undertake a longitudinal study of the professional engineeringexperiences of a particular cohort of women all of whom had graduated from the same program(civil engineering) at the same institution (a technical university in Australia) over the period from1974 -when the first woman had graduated - to 2008. A total of 76 women had graduated from theprogram during this period and 63 of them were able to be contacted and were willing toparticipate in the study.The study involved two phases. An online survey was distributed to the 63 contactable women and56 responses were received (89% response rate). Interviews were then conducted with 15volunteers from the group who had completed the survey.The online survey used was adapted from the national survey undertaken by the authors in 2007 ofall female members of Engineers Australia – the professional organisation for engineers in Australia.The most immediately surprising result was that the vast majority of the women in this particularcohort were still working as engineers or in an engineering related role (53 of 56, or 95%). Inaddition 40% of respondents were responsible for the care of children, significantly more than thenational survey results (22%) and results from other Australian studies.These results obviously raised questions about what was different about this cohort of women?Why/how had they stayed in engineering, and combined work and family when many other womenengineers had not? Was it to do with the type of engineering they had studied? The particularconditions of their employment? The resources made available to professional women engineers attheir sites? Or perhaps a ‘critical mass’ effect at their place of employment? In order to explore thepossible answers to these questions this paper will present an analysis based on the survey andinterview data which may suggest some potential ‘solutions’ to the engineering workplace as thelast phase of the leaky pipeline.
Ayre, M., & Mills, J. E., & Gill, J. (2011, June), Not All Women Leave! Reflections on a Cohort of “Stayers” in Civil Engineering Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. https://peer.asee.org/18956
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