International Perspectives on Increasing Workforce Participation, Advancement and Leadership
Edited by Diana Bilimoria and Linley Lord
Chapter 3: To stay or to leave: Factors that differentiate women currently working in engineering from those who left the profession
Engineering is one of the most sex-segregated professional occupations in the United States today. Twenty percent of engineering graduates are women, the successful result of over three decades of intense early education interventions that have cost millions of dollars. President Obama established the Committee on STEM Education to determine how much and where this money was spent. CoSTEM found that, just in 2011, $3.4 billion dollars were spent by various federal agencies on STEM education. A third (approximately $1.1 billion) was directed to women, people with disabilities, and racial/ethnic minority students. Thirteen million dollars focused exclusively on interventions to increase the number of girls and women in STEM careers (CoSTEM, 2011). It can be argued that these interventions have been successful, because the 20 percent graduation rate is roughly double the graduation rate from the 1970s. In 2013, the Committee on STEM Education issued a five-year strategic plan, again noting the critical need for science and technological innovation, not just for US preeminence, but for security reasons as well. The foreword of this plan notes that “The health and longevity of our Nation’s citizenry, economy, and environmental resources depend in large part on the acceleration of scientific and technological innovations, such as those that improve health care, inspire new industries, protect the environment, and safeguard us from harm.” For the first time, the strategic plan explicitly includes the recommendation for STEM education and the workplace to be more inclusive of women and racial/ethnic minorities.
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