Women in engineering are directed toward two career paths in engineering organizations, technical or managerial. M. Teresa Cardador, professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois, speaking to Phys.Org, notes, "[The] number of female engineers who choose or are ushered into the managerial career path is disproportionate to those who choose the technical path."
In a study published in Organization Science, Cardador looks at the disparity between women in engineering in managerial vs. technical roles. She interviewed more than 60 engineers and analyzed the responses. Currently, women represent 15% of the overall engineering workforce. Approximately 8% work in specialized fields such as mechanical engineering. Cardador found that sex-segregation continues despite efforts to recruit and retain female engineering professionals. A higher number of women are encouraged to pursue a managerial path rather than a technical track.
Having women steered toward a managerial track comes with some negative effects:
Women identify less with engineering as their occupation
Encouraging the stereotype of women having “soft skills” necessary for management, but lacking technical engineering expertise
Work life balance issues arise with managerial roles having less flexibility than technical roles
"All of these things combined—the reduced identification with the profession, the persistent validation of stereotypes, and then these work-life balance issues - have the potential to increase a woman's chances of leaving the profession,” concludes Cardador.
Kettering University Online works to create an inclusive and diverse curriculum for its students. Some notable women alumni leading the engineering field include Mary Barra, Jaqueline A. Dedo, Maureen Midgley, and more. Learn why leaders learn at Kettering.