International Perspectives on Increasing Workforce Participation, Advancement and Leadership
Edited by Diana Bilimoria and Linley Lord
Chapter 2: Women persisting in the engineering profession: The role of the ideal self and engagement
Women continue to be under-represented in the engineering profession comprising only 10 percent of employed engineers in 2010 in the United States. At the same time women comprised 47 percent of the total workforce and more than 50 percent of all professionals and managers (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2011). Although the number of women graduating with engineering degrees, both graduate and undergraduate, has steadily increased from 5 percent in 1980 to 22 percent (National Science Foundation, 2010) the retention of women employed as engineers has not kept pace as the percentage of women employed across the various engineering disciplines has not changed since the mid-1990s (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2012). In this study we present findings from new analyses conducted on data previously reported (Buse, Bilimoria and Perelli, 2013) wherein we interviewed women with engineering degrees, 21 who persisted in the profession and ten others who left the profession. From the voices of these women engineers we learn about the complicated factors driving their decision to persist or opt-out of the engineering profession. Thorough analysis of these stories resulted in grounded theory to answer our research question “What individual-level factors explain women’s persistence in the engineering profession in US corporations?” where persistence is defined as continuing in the engineering profession and/or advancing to a position that would normally be achieved by successful engineers. The findings from this study aid in developing programs to retain women in the engineering profession and contribute to the development
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