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Gender and Engineering:. What's your message to women about engineering and technical degrees? Elaine R. Borrelli, Director of Programs Session: C 122. Provide a critical review of advisement and career guidance materials and suggestions for improvement.

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Gender and Engineering:

What's your message to women about engineering and technical degrees?

Elaine R. Borrelli, Director of Programs

Session: C 122

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Provide a critical review of advisement and career guidance materials and suggestions for improvement.

Present and explain the findings and recommendations of the Extraordinary Women Engineers project about career choice and messaging

Learning Objectives:

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What is your message ?

The state of engineering and technology advising

  • What do you tell prospective students ?

  • Who told you this was the ‘advice’?

  • How is the ‘advice’ received?

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Engineers are Problem-Solvers !

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From Mechanical Engineering

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From Civil Engineering

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From Electrical Engineering

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Authoritative statements

  • Rising Above The Gathering Storm (The National Academies Press)

  • Out-sourcing/Off-shoring of Engineering Jobs(National Academy of Engineering)

  • American Competitiveness Initiative (White House)

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Extraordinary Women Engineers Project

  • SWE partnership with other societies & WGBH

  • Surveyed teachers, counselors, high school girls, college students and working engineers

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Extraordinary Women Engineers Project

We investigated four specific subjects:

  • How interested high school girls are in the engineering field

  • What factors work to motivate and discourage females from pursuing engineering careers

  • The current message we are sending to high school girls

  • Ways to improve the content and delivery of that message

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Findings: Lack of Knowledge and Interest

  • Vague notion that engineering is for people who “love” math and science

  • Lack of interest in engineering as a career field

  • Lack a basic understanding of what engineering is/the nature of the work.

  • Specifically 70% do not think engineering is “for them.”

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Findings: The Gender Divide is Real

Five sub groups:

  • High school students, teachers & counselors

  • Undergraduate engineering students

  • Practicing engineers

  • Agree and strongly agree that Engineering is perceived to be a “man’s profession.”

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Appealing ?

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Findings: The Wrong Message

  • The engineering community (educators, advisors and professionals) has done little to modernize the message

  • Why ?

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Findings: The Wrong Message

  • The message has never been customized for women.

  • Stressing the same points that appealed to a relatively small percentage of male students in the past.

  • Engineering is:

    • challenging field

    • superior math and science abilities

    • Work hard in college, harder on the job

    • Highly structured work

    • Sterile work environment – ‘things’ not ‘people’

    • Not for everyone.

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In fact . . . it sounds like

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Findings: A Different Audience

  • “Generation Y,” the “Echo Boomers,” the “Millennials,” etc.

  • Context

  • Attitudes and expectations changed considerably since their parents’ day.

  • Digitally sophisticated

  • Immediate gratification

  • More independent and self-sufficient.

  • Their world view has been influenced by media influences.

  • They are more culturally diverse (nearly 34 percent are from diverse cultures)

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Why does SWE care?

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What Now ?

If we want to reach

  • Women

  • Diverse cultures

  • People with different experiences & expectations

    Tell them what is real and relevant...

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Top 10 reasons : Women in Engineering & Technology

10Many technical careers are available in 2 years or a 4 year degree.

9As more women choose technical careers, pay equity in these careers will improve.

8Women working in technical careers are fulfilled by hands-on jobs.

7Women who break gender-based stereotypes can inspire children.

6Technical careers offer diverse work environments, giving women many options to match their personal interests.

546% of the workforce is made up of women, but only 9% of the technical workforce is female.

4Women develop pride through accomplishments in nontraditional careers.

3Our economy is changing and the number of technical and skilled positions continues to rise. In 2000 65% of jobs required skilled employees.

2Many employers specifically seek qualified female candidates for technical positions.


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The Global Workforce

  • “The World is Flat” Thomas Freedman

  • Soft skills as important as technical knowledge

  • Leadership skills

  • Risk-taking behavior

  • Innovation that drives invention

  • Virtual teams & communication

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Findings: Influencers Aren’t Being Influenced.

  • Finally, EWEP learned that we are not reaching these students’ key influencers either, particularly teachers. Parents, peers and the media also help shape young women’s notions about what career paths to take.

  • In short, we have our work cut out for us! But at least now, thanks to EWEP, we also have a better grasp of how to be more effective.

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Findings: Career Motivators for Girls

Girls and Women are interested in careers that are:

  • Meaningful

  • Flexible, Fit, Inclusive

  • Relevant (hold the widgets!)

  • Rewarding work that makes a difference.

    Messages that address several of these “motivators” have far greater impact than ones that target a single topic.

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“anti-Dilbert” messages

  • Advising messages should portray engineering as:

  • Interesting,

  • Hands-on

  • Financially rewarding work that takes place outside the cubicle

  • Traveling the world.

  • Work that makes a difference,

  • Improves life and living

  • Involves use of one’s imagination and creative talents.

    Allows the engineer to see his or her ideas realized

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Maybe the Future is Here

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The Face of SWE

  • Students responded favorably to informational stories that told them more about what engineering work really entails.

  • Positive personal stories

  • Engineering work that is a fit to the type of lifestyle they hope to obtain.

  • Non-linear career path and variety of work

    Work-Life Balance is important

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Wow! That’s Engineering?

SWE’s new outreach career guidance initiative

  • Piloted in 2006

  • National roll-out in 2007

  • Two platforms

    • 3 high-visibility events across the nation

    • Event-in-the box program

      • Activities (standards based)

      • New Messages and materials

      • Connecting Educators (and other adult influencers) to Engineering

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