10 Ways to Get More Women into Engineering and Tech
The first airbags were designed according to the average man’s height, and early voice-recognition software was calibrated to a typically male timbre. The airbags killed or injured women and children, and the voice-recognition software didn’t work for the half of our population who tend to speak in a higher register. If more women had been involved in designing airbags and voice recognition, it’s a fair bet that the design flaws wouldn’t have been as disastrous.
We now know that women make up only 12 percent of engineers and 26 percent of computing professionals. We know that jobs in these fields are more important than ever and are growing exponentially. It’s clear from AAUW’s research that girls have just as much aptitude for these fields as boys, yet women don’t pursue engineering and computing in college in nearly the same numbers as men. And the drop-off continues in the workplace.
AAUW has been asking the question for years: Why are there so few women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)? But we’ve also been asking how — how can we recruit and retain more women in these fields? Our new research report has some answers for engineering and computing specifically, because these are the two STEM fields with the most and highest-paying job opportunities but the lowest representation of women. Here’s what you can do, whether you’re an employer, professor, professional, or parent.
1. Take the implicit bias test.
Yes, you. Just because you’re reading this article doesn’t mean you’re not biased. We all are. Even one of the creators of the test, Harvard professor and former AAUW fellow Mahzarin Banaji, found that she had implicit racial and gender biases.
2. Remember that engineers are made, not born.
One of the biggest hurdles to recruiting women is the idea that math and science prowess is inherent. The truth is, you can learn to be a great programmer or engineer. The brain is a muscle that needs to be worked to get stronger.
3. Let the girls in your life tinker with things, break toys, get dirty, and fail.
And let them know that adversity is common in these fields. Learning from and moving past failure is part of the design process.
4. Know that Title IX is about more than athletics.
It also applies to STEM education. If your school is limiting opportunities for women and girls to pursue STEM, it might be violating Title IX.
5. Spread the word that engineering and computing fields have enormous social impact.
Women, on average, prioritize “communal goals” in their careers, meaning that they value working with and helping people. Engineers and tech workers can engineer an artificial limb, come up with solutions for drought and famine, and prevent cyberattacks.
6. If you’re a woman who works in engineering or tech, seek out opportunities to serve as a role model for girls and young women through groups and events that celebrate women in your field, such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing or the Society of Women Engineers.
7. If you’re a man who works in engineering or tech, refuse to sit on panels that don’t have at least one woman.
It’s true that there are fewer women than men in these fields, but there aren’t none. Send the message that women belong in engineering and tech by encouraging conferences to ask more women to speak.
8. If you’re an employer, hold managers accountable for their hiring and promotion decisions.
Make sure they can back their choices up without invoking gender stereotypes or assumptions.
9. If you’re a manager, try removing gender info from job applications and evaluations.
Our research shows that women workers and applicants face discrimination even when their experience is the same as their male counterparts.
10. If you’re at or near the top of an organization, make it clear and explicit that attracting and retaining more women to do technical work (not just administrative) is a priority for your organization.
Doing simple things like including a diversity statement on job listings and getting men engaged with the issue goes a long way.
These are just a few of the many recommendations you’ll find in AAUW’s brand-new research report, Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing. Download the report for our complete findings.