When I start talking about diversity in tech there’s a few points I usually like to make. Because I come from both a tech and engineering background there is a lot of overlap with women in Engineering roles and women working in tech. This blog post will compare diversity in tech and engineering.
We nearly had 40% female graduates in Computer Science
Traditional engineering fields such as mechanical engineering have always had low female participation rates at the university level. Where as computer science didn’t have that problem. A common reason why people think women stopped studying computer science was the personal computer came out in the 80’s and was marketed exclusively to boys. This was also around the time when Lego changed it’s marketing towards exclusive “boys toys”. (Lego was struggling financially before this point). This video below compares Lego’s 80’s advertising to current day advertising.
Some engineering fields have more diversity
What draws women to study Environmental and Biomedical engineering over Mechanical Engineering? I’d say it’s a perception thing, as a smart young women entering university, the amount of courses you could study is almost endless. You want to do something that feels like it’s going to benefit society as well as stimulate you intellectually.
Environmental Engineering definitely sounds like it’s going to benefit society more than Petroleum Engineering… Just saying.
Women and international students pass engineering degrees at higher rates
Once women decide to study Engineering they are more likely to see it through to successfully graduate. If women had some sort of innate ability that made them not good at engineering, you’d expect this number to be lower.
Some Muslim countries have better diversity in Engineering
Malaysia boasts about 30 – 40% of women engineering graduateshttps://www.asee.org/public/conferences/106/papers/22417/view
People tend to associate Muslim countries with oppression of women, however choosing a STEM career is seen as a way for setting yourself up for financial independence in a lot of these countries. There’s a different cultural perception of value for these careers. People in these countries don’t think that maths is a skill you a born with and only boys are good at it. They believe to be good at this skill you need to study hard. There is a blog post on cultural influences here.
Women leave the field more frequently than men
To become an Engineer you have to be a smart cookie, it’s not an easy thing to do. I know this because I tried and failed in my efforts. But once you start working there’s lots of issues that constantly chip away at your sense of satisfaction in work. There’s also tons of non engineering fields out there that value transferable engineering skills, can be just as rewarding on an intellectual level and offer better work life balance.
Research also shows that women are disproportionately likely to move away from the most technical career paths and toward roles that involve technical supervision or management as their careers progress.https://hbr.org/2018/11/the-subtle-stressors-making-women-want-to-leave-engineering
We have a women to leadership problem
If we look at a more traditional female job (teaching), 74% of the workforce are women but 49% of the principal’s are male. We naturally promote more men to leadership positions.
Diverse Companies perform better financially
I’ll leave you with this TED talk on how diversity is good your companies bottom dollar.