International Perspectives on Increasing Workforce Participation, Advancement and Leadership
Edited by Diana Bilimoria and Linley Lord
Chapter 6: Onwards and upwards: Insights from women managers and leaders in engineering
In Australia, women’s participation rates in the engineering profession are comparable to that of the United States and Europe (Engineering UK, 2013) with only 10 percent of degree qualified engineers working in engineering and related professions being women (Kaspura, 2010). The low participation rates are attributed to small numbers of women enrolling into engineering courses and a high attrition rate post-graduation (Mills et al., 2008). This is despite government and industry body initiatives and the implementation of programs by organizations to attract, engage and retain women into the engineering profession. The low participation rates can be seen to contribute to the lack of engineering women in senior roles. Knowing many successful women in the profession in Australia prompted the authors to ask: “What do we know about engineering women in senior roles?” Observations suggested that despite low participation rates, women in the engineering profession do make it to senior roles, including those considered to be management and leadership roles, and achieve success. A review of the existing research into engineering women revealed that little is known about these women. Previous studies, in Australia and other developed economies, have centered on the attraction, education and retention of women into the profession and the associated barriers, challenges and issues (for example: Miller, 2004; Gill et al., 2008; Hewlett et al., 2008; Watts, 2009).
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