International Perspectives on Increasing Workforce Participation, Advancement and Leadership
Edited by Diana Bilimoria and Linley Lord
In many English-speaking economies less than 15 per cent of professional engineers are women (NSF, 2012; Kirkup et al., 2010; Kaspura, 2013), and furthermore women are more likely to leave the profession than men (Frehill, 2009; Hunt, 2010; Kirkup et al., 2010; Kaspura, 2013). It has been suggested that difficulties of combining motherhood and the attendant childcare responsibilities with an engineering career contribute to women’s attrition from the profession after about ten years (Blackwell and Glover, 2008; Fouad and Singh, 2011; Plett et al., 2011; for example). This chapter considers the issues that affect work–family decisions of women engineers in Australia and some other Western countries. After examining the evidence that these issues are at least partly responsible for women leaving the profession, we explore ways that women who have stayed in the profession have resolved these issues, focusing particularly on the Australian context. Their solutions may suggest strategies to other women engineers faced with conflict in their work–life integration, and also strategies for implementation and support by managers and employing organisations who wish to improve the retention of women in the engineering profession. In Australia, the progress of women in the engineering profession has been tracked over 13 years by Engineers Australia (EA), the national engineers’ professional body, through a series of three surveys of its members.
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