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Challenges Facing Women in Creativity

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The Challenges Of Women In Engineering

This print version free essay The Challenges Of Women In Engineering.

Category: Technology

Autor: reviewessays 29 November 2010

Words: 952 | Pages: 4

Susan McCalib

December 2, 2003

The Challenges of Women in Engineering

"The application of scientific principles to practical ends as the design,

construction, and operation of efficient and economical structures, equipment, and

systems."(1) This is a dictionary definition of engineering. Engineering is a noble

profession that touches nearly every facet of daily life. It is also a profession

that has historically been difficult for women to enter into and be successful at.

What are the challenges facing women in engineering? The most prevalent

challenge is a result of gender discrimination. Societies of the world have typically

channeled females into roles that are traditionally "female". Some traditional

female roles would include careers in teaching, art (culinary, design, etc.), history,

and homemaking. Math and science are traditionally male areas of study, even in k-

12 education. Girls have not been encouraged to enter these areas and when they

have, they have been evaluated more critically than their male counterparts.

Statistics indicate that in 1991, 17% of first year entrants to engineering


degree courses were women.(2) Other studies cite that only 9% of American

engineers are women and only 20% of engineering degrees are earned by women.(3)

Studies from Ireland indicate a similar low trend where 20% of female students

are in engineering, but they have high drop rates, low retention, and low promotion

rates in later careers.(4)

Discrimination of females in engineering is not limited to students, but also

to faculty of engineering programs. A large study completed by the Massachuset

Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1996 and amended in 1997 and 1998 indicates

that discrimination was high within the faculty of the MIT. In 1994, there were

only 22 tenured female faculty at MIT versus male tenured faculty of 252.(5)

Female faculty were found to have endured a wide disparity with their male

counterparts in salary, space, resources for research, named chairs, prizes,

awards, amount of salary paid from individual grants, teach obligations and

assignments, committee assignments (department, institute, outside professional

activities and committees, pipeline data), numbers of women/men students, and

faculty overtime. Steps have been implemented to resolve this discrimination and

more recent findings have indicated an increase in number of tenured women

faculty in addition to improvements in the other areas mentioned.


Competent engineers need to have several key areas of skill: 1) critical and

creative thinking, 2) aptitude in the math and science disciplines, 3) the ability to

work together with others (team player), and 4) being able to ask questions and

solve problems. Gender discrimination has kept women from engineering because

of the bias that women can't excel at math or science, that they can't think

critically, or can't solve problems. Culture projects engineering as a male career

by portraying engineers as "men who work on engines and get knee-deep in oil". (6)

Progress has been made in overcoming these cultural perceptions. Most

engineering programs are supporting diversity in hiring and awards. They are

instituting affirmative action programs to recruit and retain women in engineering

programs and faculty positions.(7) Women are currently approximately 50% of the

population and a major consumer group, representing half of the intellectual

resources. Engineering will profit from inclusion of women with better products

and services. Women are good team players, with strong leadership and

cooperation skills. The Colorado School of Mines researched the effects of

gender composition on teams in quality of design product and team satisfaction,

finding that both features were improved with a mixed gender team. (8)


Current workforce projections indicate that unless women and minorities are

encouraged to enter engineering, the United States will have a shortage of skilled



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