Why American Women Graduates are Quitting Engineering

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Rani Bokar at Intel

Rani Bokar leads the team at Intel

So I dug into another "women in engineering" report, trying to see if anyone had cracked the code on why women tend to leave engineering 2-3x more often, despite being just as qualified. It's a 64-page review of graduates all over the United States: Stemming the Tide Why Women Leave Engineering (PDF). This is more about keeping women in the field, not getting them to consider it as an option in the first place.

Some quick hits on the findings, I am mashing up those who leave before and shortly after entering the workforce here:

  • No difference in demographics, confidence, attitude, GPA, major/discipline of those who stay and leave. It's mostly the specifics of the jobs they find and the climate they find
  • 60-80% who leave field are still working, but elsewhere
  • Setting aside the people who don't find engineering interesting, and main issues are roughly:
    1. 50%: Working conditions -poor training, too much travel
    2. 30%: Work "climate" -  a "work 60 hours a week paid 40" sweatshop or a sexist attitude among the office
    3. 25%: Family reasons and just general work/life balance
  • Recommendations start page 57: Better organizational path, training, positive climate, mentors, reasonable work-life balance. Mostly of it's pretty obvious stuff

I notice that once again, the vast majority of graduates and employees are in chemical, civil, and mechanical engineering. As I've mentioned, this is a highly consistent and statistically huge trend (at least in North America) and I cannot find any discussion of why those disciplines appeal so much more to women. Leave a note in the comments if you have any info!

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