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The Rise of Women in Engineering in 2014

November 19th, 2014

Traditionally a male-dominated field, the world of engineering continues to see more women become active in the discipline and 2014 was no exception. From Debbie Sterling’s GoldieBlox to Ayah Bdeir and her Lego-like electronics modules, LittleBits, women are succeeding in inspiring girls to become interested in engineering.

When girls inspired by engineering at an early age become old enough to join the workforce, these new engineers honed on GoldieBlox and LittleBits hopefully won’t feel alone. With that said, there is still more work to be done to bring more women into the engineering field. Let’s take a closer look at how to improve the number of women in engineering.

California State University Northridge helping to develop Women Engineers

California State University Northridge (CSUN) suffers from an acute lack of females in their engineering and computer science schools. Only 12.3 percent of students enrolled in those programs were women as of the Fall of 2013. CSUN’s Bonita J. Campbell Endowment for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) was created with the hope to raise that percentage.

A professional civil engineer, Lilly Shraibati, serves on the advisory board for WISE. She was initially dissuaded from entering the field by her engineer uncles. “Everyone should follow their dreams without worrying whether it’s appropriate,” she countered.

STEM Education remains Vital in Attracting Females to Engineering

One of WISE’s main goals is to encourage more female students to take STEM classes in school; hoping that this engenders the inspiration to ultimately choose engineering as a profession. Finding peers is another key in keeping female students enrolled in engineering classes.

Courtney Yoshimoto, president of CSUN’s Society of Women Engineers club, notes the lack of peers in her program. “Being in school as an engineer, there’s not a lot of girls in your class,” she said. “It’s hard to find study groups and peers that are there to help you out, that’s what I feel has been the hardest part.”

If you are a female looking to enter the engineering field, talk to the experts at The Talley Group. As one of the top engineering staffing agencies on the west coast, and a woman-owned company, the Talley Group offers the unique insights to help you find a rewarding career in engineering — no matter your gender. Contact them today!

Attract and Retain Women | Oil and Gas Engineers in Seattle

May 7th, 2014

As current engineers from the Baby Boomer generation prepare to retire from the oil and gas industries, combined with new drilling and extraction initiatives, the demand for engineering expertise continues to grow. Attracting women to work in this lucrative industry is an important factor in solving this acute need for engineering talent. Future oil and gas projects remain at risk without a diverse pool of engineers to support this work.

Closing the Gender Gap in Oil and Gas Engineering

Training women engineers starts in the classroom, both in college and at the high school level. A focus on STEM-related disciplines goes a long way in inspiring women to explore an engineering career more closely. For those already in the workforce — in another engineering or technical field — cross-training helps to expose a potential new worker to the unique aspects of oil and gas engineering.

Mentorship, especially from another female engineer if possible, is also important in making newly-minted women engineers feel comfortable on the job — especially if it is actually in the field at an extraction site. A recent study revealed that a strong majority of female engineers in the oil and gas industry feel welcome and would recommend a career in this engineering discipline to other women.

95 percent of those surveyed felt that mentorship helped them in their career. With only 42 percent actively involved in mentoring, companies in this sector need to take an active role in fostering mentorship programs at their workplaces.

Recognizing Women Engineers

The survey also noted that 45 percent of female engineers in oil and gas feel that they don’t receive the same recognition as their male counterparts. This issue, combined with a lower average salary for women, must be dealt with to successfully attract and retain women engineers to the world of oil and gas.

If you are interested in exploring a career in the oil and gas industry, talk to the experts at The Talley Group. As a women-owned company and one of the top engineering staffing firms in the Seattle area — and a great source for Seattle engineering jobs — they provide the insight and expertise to ensure your career needs are met. Make it a point to schedule some time with them today!

Breaking the Stereotype — Getting Women Interested in Engineering

November 13th, 2013

Despite recent inroads by women in the engineering field and other STEM disciplines, a notable gender imbalance still exists. One study estimates that only 11 percent of current engineers are female. Since the engineering and technology job markets continue to grow faster than other sectors, it is important to get women interested entering this lucrative and relevant field.

Keeping Young Girls Interested in Math is Key

Keeping girls enrolled in elementary school interested in math is key for their future prospects in the field of engineering. Debbie Sterling, CEO and Founder of GoldieBlox who make construction toys targeted at young females, commented on math education for girls aged 8-10 in a column for Forbes Magazine.

“As I looked into it further, I learned that girls start losing interest in math and science as young as age 8. Take a walk down the pink aisle at the toy store and you can begin to see why. Girls are inundated with princesses, pop stars and decorating kits. Meanwhile, boys are surrounded with math and science games, construction toys, puzzles and brainteasers. These toys develop spatial skills and get boys interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) at an early age, “said Sterling.

GoldieBlox’s Success Gives Hope for the Future of Female Engineers

Sterling’s company has garnered much praise and some venture capital success, giving hope that the gender imbalance in engineering can be mitigated. GoldieBlox emphasizes storytelling with the product centered on a girl inventor, named Goldie, serving as a role model for fledgling female mechanical engineers. Getting girls wanting to play with Goldie instead of Barbie will hopefully play a large role in inspiring young girls to become women engineers in the future.

If you are interested in furthering your engineering career — no matter your gender — talk to the experienced staff at The Talley Group. As one of the top engineering staffing organizations in the Seattle area — and a female-owned company — they have the unique expertise to ensure your career gets to that next level. Schedule some time to talk with them today!

How the Engineering Field Has Changed for Women, and What Changes Need to Come

November 3rd, 2011

In 1947, the earliest year for which there are reliable statistics, 0.3% of all engineers in the United States were women. By 1983, a little more than a decade after Congress had passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, the percentage was up to 5.8%. By the end of the millennium, after engineering colleges had spent millions of dollars making special efforts to woo and retain women students, the figure had almost doubled, to 10.6%.

According to 2001 Current Population Survey (CPS) data, one out of ten employed engineers was a woman, while two of ten employed engineering technologists and technicians were women. Among engineering specialties, industrial, chemical, and metallurgical/materials engineers were the only occupations in which women saw higher representation than the overall percent of total women engineers. Women made up 17 percent of all industrial engineers, 12 percent of metallurgical/metal engineers, and 11.5 percent of chemical engineers. Among all other engineering specialties–aerospace, mining, petroleum, nuclear, agricultural, civil, electrical or electronic, mechanical, marine, or naval architects–women represented fewer than 11 percent.

Now, more than 70 colleges and universities have programs geared toward females. There are major trade associations for female engineers, including the Society for Women Engineers,  the Women in Engineering branch of IEEE and the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), all of which work towards the promotion of women in the engineering field.

For years, though, researchers have struggled to understand why so many women leave careers in engineering. Theories run the gamut, from family-unfriendly work schedules to innate differences between the genders. A new paper by McGill University economist Jennifer Hunt offers a well-researched explanation: women leave engineering jobs when they feel disgruntled about pay and the chance of promotion. In other words, they leave for the same reasons men do.

Hunt combed through data collected by the National Science Foundation in 1993 and 2003 on some 200,000 college graduates. Her first finding was that about 21% of all graduates surveyed were working in a field unrelated to their highest college degree. That proportion held steady for both men and women. Yet in engineering, there was a gap: about 10% of male engineers were working in an unrelated field, while some 13% of female engineers were. Women who became engineers disproportionately left for other sectors. Why?

Hunt analyzed surveys that allowed respondents to indicate why they were working outside their field, suggesting options such as working conditions, pay, promotion opportunities, job location and family-related reasons. As it turned out, more than 60% of the women who left engineering did so because of dissatisfaction with pay and promotion opportunities. More women than men left engineering for family-related reasons, but that gender gap was no different than what Hunt found in non-engineering professions. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the nature of the work,” says Hunt.

The question now becomes why women engineers feel gypped when it comes to pay and promotion. Hunt ran a slew of statistical tests to see if she could detect any patterns. She did. Women also left fields such as financial management and economics at higher than expected rates. The commonality? Like engineering, those sectors are male-dominated. Some 74% of financial-management degree holders in the survey sample were male. Men made up 73% of economics graduates. And to take one example from engineering, some 83% of mechanical engineering grads were male.

How, exactly, being in a majority-male environment leads women to leave for reasons related to pay and promotion is unclear. Hunt’s study did not formally evaluate possible root causes.

Nonetheless, she concludes that making engineering jobs more family-friendly — by offering flexible work schedules, say — isn’t the solution. If we desire to keep women working as engineers, then the focus should be on creating work environments where women feel more able to climb the career ladder.

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