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I have been practicing structural engineering for over 10 years. While there were many female engineers at my level when I started, I see very few women at the management level. Is this something others are also seeing? What can we do to narrow this gap and create a more equitable engineering community? I'm interested in both long term strategies and steps we can take today to create positive change.
Dwayne, I think that your analysis regarding the difference in self-promotion between women and men engineers in an organization is right on. It fits with my experience as a long time utility manager as well. One of the major lessons I have imparted to my many women mentees over the years is how and when to appropriately speak up and make their voices heard. Whether on a project, in a meeting or in what you call self-promotion. Having raised two daughters I also agree that much of this may be cultural. I always had to encourage my girls to celebrate and take credit for their accomplishments. As a result I have one daughter who is quite assertive in her profession and has climbed the ladder well, lol.
My experience also is that young engineers are often given more responsibilities than are called for in their job description, and performing well in these should be the precursor for promotion. However a frank talk with their supervisor at the appropriate time is generally needed as the catalyst for the promotion. Men engineers seem to be more willing to have this conversation while many (but not all) women engineers avoid the frank talk and devolve into victimization. This is where a good manager needs to pay attention and a good mentor is important to light a fire under these excellent women to speak up. It only benefits the organization to promote performers regardless of gender. That's my 2 cents
So, Dwayne, given my original brief question to you was unfortunately misinterpreted as somehow taking your earlier remarks out of context, hence this somewhat longer conversation on Patricia's question seemed warranted . . .just for clarification of our woman civil engineer's contributor's remarks.
Patricia, the core question you raised:
"What can we do to narrow this gap and create a more equitable engineering community?"
"We live the message through our words and actions, generating an environment that people want to be part of. They become more comfortable with us, but may not even know why." -ACOA, Step 12.
Understand, and be prepared to fight the gender-centric, ignorance-based. . .. but generally, "softly delivered" … time-honored pandering you have been receiving.
4. As you are researchers and empiricists, do the work to learn how other abused, massive groups/categories of people planned, organized, found their common voice, and just got it done!
"Women are stepping up and saying "I'm not going to wait around for someone to hand it to me!" -Michelle Yeoh. Oct.2019
My mom, Mary Ellen Deady Hayden, whom at the age of 6 was placed in an orphanage where she was "Raised," then released onto the streets of Manhattan, New York, at the age of 15 said this:
"Don't wait for your ship to come in, row out and meet it!" With respect, understanding, and love for all, Bill
It’s discouraging women have not shared their thoughts on this thread. I located the following resources where women engineers shared their thoughts. As men in the profession, what can we do to improve the culture of civil engineering where our women are comfortable enough to discuss the cultural prejudices women face?
The State of Women in Civil Engineering 
Stephanie Slocum, P.E., M.ASCE, a structural engineer and associate principal at a woman-owned engineering firm, Hope Furrer Associates, discusses her book "She Engineers: Outsmart Bias, Unlock your Potential, and Create the Engineering Career of your Dreams" and the state of women in civil engineering.
How I succeeded as a woman in engineering 
This habit of wildly chasing her dreams has led some to describe Cass as "crazy", a label she doesn't necessarily disagree with. "I think everyone needs to be a bit crazy to get where they want to go," she says. "You have to choose the crazy, and accept the things that come with it, if you're ever going to reach your goals." --Cassandra Cole at TEDxUW
It's discouraging women have not shared their thoughts on this thread. I located the following resources where women engineers shared their thoughts. As men in the profession, what can we do to improve the culture of civil engineering where our women are comfortable enough to discuss the cultural prejudices women face?
With all possible respect, the statement above provides the very "Restraining Force Energy" that has kept women. . . and woman engineers most always "In the queue" for consideration at work and to vote.
"Speaking Louder" and its associated behaviors is what underrepresented groups in the United States, and around the world have finally resorted to when those in positions of power continued to, in various "Apparently Socially Acceptable" behaviors, effectively and efficiently hold them captive.
Imagine where women would be had they not finally had enough "Be Patient" responses from men in order to simply exercise their right to vote!
And then, there is the horrific struggle people of color suffered until they final had enough and women and men of color organized and made their famous "March On Washington!" .
Q. Given the above brief response to Yance's opinion, I wonder what your opinion . . .men and woman engineers. . .might be as to the need for the frequency and volume of women engineers to. . . quite simply. . ."Speak Louder" to overcome the current level of the historical social/cultural gender bias?
With respect, understanding, and love for all, Bill
 See Kurt Lewin's "Force-Field Analysis," and consider Lewin's B = f (I, E).
This is a great topic to revive from the archives. We've had a couple of years of MeToo, where sexual harassment has brought out both the overt and subtle sexism in society and in some workplaces. It's a good time to check in and see if awareness has risen in the profession.
I just returned yesterday from a 2-day meeting at ASCE Headquarters working on a committee looking at the future of our profession. It's always fun to work with great men and women on these committees and inside this national service, I find generally great respect and little sexism. But these are the forward thinkers in our profession.
As a mid-career woman, I'll mix personal experience with research. I first went to work in the environmental engineering division of a small (70 employee) firm in late 1980s. My direct boss was supportive of all employees. He gave me a 90-day evaluation and I got a promotion and a substantial raise. But, every day when I had to use the photocopier, I had to go to the bridge division and had to stare at the Makita tool calendar pinup of the month (Google "Vintage Pinup Makita Tool Girls" if you don't know what that is). This was society's message to women – you are valued for your sexual appeal. When the prostitute plied her trade in the parking lot behind the office, most of the men pulled their binoculars out of their desk and rushed to the windows to watch (I wonder what the loads on that corner of the building were). Fellow engineers felt very comfortable spending their lunch hour at the nudie bar in the Combat Zone and coming back to talk about it in the afternoon. This was my launch into engineering. A boss that didn't see limits on my talent because of my gender made up for some of it, but … my fellow engineers focused on a woman's sexuality.
Societal cues, though, start much earlier than the entry to the workplace. Recent studies have shown that there isn't a difference in the abilities of boys and girls to do math and science (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/11/08/777187543/math-looks-the-same-in-the-brains-of-boys-and-girls-study-finds), but somewhere girls are being told that they aren't as good at math. When that happens, girls tend not to pursue engineering.
Where does it start? I think it starts pretty early. Depending on the religion you are raised in, you may start off with the creation story of Adam being led astray by a woman and being kicked out of the garden. This is after you tell girls that they were created from a man. The creation story, as passed on by the churches through years of translation and transcription by men who wanted to stay in power, starts with a male god. It's not an asexual, amorphous blob, but it is a man who is the head. Try walking into a fundamentalist church and stating that you don't think the highest deity has a sex and you will be lucky to escape. So as early as toddler years, girls are hearing the story that women are lesser and can fall prey to evil and lead good men astray. The primary prophets and heads of many world religions are men (Zeus, Jupiter, Mohammed, Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, etc.). Who translated these religions into text after centuries of oral tradition? Men. Who wanted to maintain power? Men.
Then gifts to babies are divided into boy toys and girl toys. Honestly, I liked trucks and blocks as much as dolls. But I knew early on that Barbie was a fluff girl to her harder working Ken. In my generation, Barbie didn't have a profession or work clothes. Ken had that. That message gets internalized. And I got a lot of Barbies and fewer blocks and trucks from older relatives. Within the last decade, Barbie came with a voice and noted that Math is Hard. Where is Ken saying that Math is Hard? Math is hard for a lot of people. (when I buy kids' gifts, I ask their parents what they like, if I don't know it already – I'll buy dolls, and books, and blocks, and whatever).
Now these children get to school. In elementary school, most of the teachers are women. Why aren't more men encouraged to get into elementary education? It would do all children good to see a mix of teachers from an early age. Usually the argument is pay. Then let's ask why teachers aren't paid better to raise and educate the next generation.
In school, the research shows that "…teachers consistently rate girls' mathematical proficiency lower than that of boys with similar achievement and learning behaviors" (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332858416673617). This problem starts early. "Teachers thought that their average achieving girls were less logical than equally achieving boys. Teachers rated mathematics as more difficult for average achieving girls than for equally achieving boys. With regard to girls, teachers attributed unexpected failure more to low ability and less to lack of effort than with boys." (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1003953801526). As long as a sufficient number of elementary school teachers believe that girls are less capable and with elementary schools not being able to attract teachers as easily that are male and/or high-achieving in science and math, we will continue to have a perception problem. This manifests itself with boys being told that this is just hard and they can do it, and girls being told that they don't have this ability.
This bias continues when peers evaluate peers. "… males are more likely than females to be named by peers as being knowledgeable about the course content. This effect increases as the term progresses, and persists even after controlling for class performance and outspokenness. The bias in nominations is specifically due to males over-nominating their male peers relative to their performance. …Females, in contrast, nominated equitably based on student performance rather than gender." (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0148405). So now we have men overpromoting men. This then translates to what was noted by several people on here regarding men being more willing to self-promote. They have been taught this from an early age – they are the same gender as the deity, their ribs were used to create women from them, they are told that they are good in math and science and a struggle is just a small roadblock, but not a career killer.
It also affects how men rate faculty in college. Many studies highlight the gender bias in student evaluations. (https://academic.oup.com/jeea/article-abstract/17/2/535/4850534?redirectedFrom=fulltext). What's scary is that this continues in online evaluations. When teaching the same online course with the same content, "…the language students use in evaluations regarding male professors is significantly different than language used in evaluating female professors. They also show that a male instructor administering an identical online course as a female instructor receives higher ordinal scores in teaching evaluations, even when questions are not instructor-specific." (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/gender-bias-in-student-evaluations/1224BE475C0AE75A2C2D8553210C4E27). Interestingly, when awareness is raised about unconscious bias, it tends to disappear. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0216241. Many women in my age range are convinced that it is these unconscious biases are why we will not live to see a woman elected President in the United States. Regardless of the party, SHE is too … shrill, angry, argumentative, annoying, whatever. As I pay attention to the 2020 election, I've heard a lot of men and women talk about the female candidates in this way, but not about the men. I remember when Geraldine Ferraro was the VP candidate for Mondale. The discussion among my parents' friends was that a woman was too emotional to be commander in chief. I hear a lot of "yes, a woman can be president, but not … Palin, Warren, Ferraro, Harris, etc., because they are too …"
Now men move into the workforce. Several people have already mentioned hiring is often done to see if the interviewee "fits" into the company culture. In the 1980s, it meant that women just planned to work harder and longer than their male colleagues and you didn't raise an issue with the Makita calendar or with the discussion in an open office of the nudie bar. It meant that when you are greeted by a stranger who knows your boss at a conference, you don't say anything when the man kisses you on the lips (yes, this did happen to me). It was just a peck, so that was expected to be OK. Now fitting in the culture is more subtle, but it refers to company owners and executives who are not comfortable with a woman. The current US VP won't be alone with a woman and that stunts professional growth. He models behavior where he doesn't believe that women are at the same level but instead are Eve, tempting Adam with an apple. This is the behavior and belief system being advertised to our children. This is the corporate culture "fit" being advertised at the highest level.
Taking time off to have children and to raise children is still referred to as the Mommy Track, not the Parent Track. Why? Why are some people still referring to fathers spending time alone with their kids as "babysitting"? How many executives on here took substantial time off to deal with sick children or doctor's appointments or attended a lot of school performances? Again, these are still seen as women's work. When my nephews were in school, their forms said that, if the kids were sick or in trouble, the school should call my brother and not my SIL. They didn't do that; they almost always called my SIL. My brother could get out of work early and she couldn't but the societal pressure in a liberal bastion of a Midwest city still resulted in her getting called and then she had to call my brother.
Executives, even if you support fathers taking time off during the day for sick children at the same rate that you would support a mother, does the rest of your corporate culture convey that this is fine? Or are the men in your employment being kidded by their peers for being a Mr. Mom? Do you stop this and emphasize your corporate culture? Most parents I know will make up the hours and, in fact, having time to raise a family and having flexibility results in better employees because they know that this is rare. Do your employees see male executives leaving early to go to a recital or a ball game? Do your middle managers model this behavior? Do your fathers attend as many childhood events during the week as the mothers? If not, you still have a problem. While you only may need one parent to leave work if a child is sick, it is nice if both parents can attend many (but not all – deadlines at work will take care of all quickly) the fun and celebratory events.
These derogatory terms are accompanied in the workplace with the term aggressive applied more to women than men when the person is an high achiever. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2018/08/28/when-women-are-called-aggressive-at-work/). In a seminar for women leaders on campus in the 1980s, we were given the same resume with 3 names – John, Victoria, and Pat. Women leaders thought John was a go-getter. Women leaders thought Victoria had advanced too fast and wondered how she moved up that fast. Women leaders wanted to know what Pat's gender was. Women have internalized this message. So women are taught not to be too assertive, to wait for our work to be recognized, and to not self-promote. Men are taught to be go-getters, to reach out of their comfort zone, and to self-promote. As noted by several men on this thread (thank you), male corporate and academic leaders have a responsibility to understand that women have gotten a negative message (and so have men) and it will impact how we ask for a promotion and for additional responsibility. Even when we are in a relatively equal workplace, outside messages in society place us in a secondary role (we don't have bodily autonomy in many states – women still have to have their husband's permission to have their tubes tied, for example, by some doctors. Men don't have the same hassle to have a vasectomy). There was a lot of discussion over the last few months about dating and whether men want to date and marry a woman who is smarter than him. Men say that they are ok with dating a smarter women until it could become a reality. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167215599749?etoc=). So women are getting the message that to have a family means you have to hide your intellect on the dating scene. Separating that message and not carrying it into work is a challenge.
Interestingly, in school, girls display qualities that are more compatible with being an engineering leader – they are stronger in language skills, especially among the highest and lowest achieving students. (https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Famp0000356). As noted by another respondent, many men aim for positions above their ability. I chose not to apply for the open dean's position in my school in spite of about 8 colleagues asking me to, because I am not ready to move out of the classroom (my aim is the department chair position) and because the upper administration will stifle any new initiatives that are not dictated from the top and I'm not willing to fight that battle. Until a few fossils retire, nope. I could do it. I don't want to do it. I know that I am more likely to be a change agent where I am and with one additional promotion. I can shape the future leaders, male and female, in the classroom and potentially as department chair, and I can't do that as dean. I also can do my volunteering in ASCE and in my institute. So I don't need to chase the title. I'm on that search committee and I'm sure, like the last time, we'll see applications from people who desperately want the title, instead of being satisfied where they are – with strong research programs, etc. It is the title they want, even if they don't have the skills for it and haven't worked to develop them. As noted by an earlier respondent, some men are less likely to correctly evaluate their skills and their strengths. So they don't find a position that fits and don't move to new positions that fit their growth, but instead chase titles. Many women are willing to be more honest.
Given that women at the highest end of the spectrum are better communicators compared to their highest end male colleagues, these are the women that should be recruited to leadership. (yes, not everyone can be a manager, as noted by the economics of one respondent, but everyone can be given increasing responsibilities and growth opportunities – they can be informal leaders and mentors). Leadership is a communications skill set, in addition to technical competence.
I know that one respondent saw an increase in women in CEE classes. It's not across the board. We're still at less than 20%. I suspect it is because they aren't getting the encouragement early in their educational career and early in their college career. As a faculty adviser, I often have talks with students in crisis about their major choice because a Calc I test wasn't great. I spend the time to work with the student to reflect whether it was just a bad exam or if there is a deeper problem. Both answers are acceptable. But I remember watching a former advisee who changed from CEE to social work and saying to my colleague how proud I was of him as he graduated. My colleague thought he had stepped down in life and should have stuck it out because an engineer was more important. Happiness and satisfaction wasn't a consideration.
Women need to be mentored to be better advocates for themselves, but men and corporate cultures also need to be seriously examined. Societal messages also need to be examined. As noted recently in a higher-education meme, women and minorities need white men to note that bias exists and that we should all be working to reduce these biases. While the meme was in relation to teaching reviews, it applies across the board.
Stephanie and all:
I took this discussion to my graduate groundwater class. There are 4 women in the class - 3 of them are working full time and going to school part time. The other is a full-time international student. There are 6 men in the class, which is irrelevant to this but I wanted you to know that this is a fairly heavy female course. I reviewed without directly reading my first engineering job experience (detailed above). The jaws dropped for 2 of the women and noted that they hadn't seen that. The third one said I was describing her workplace currently with the sexual jokes and the downgrading of women. She's a structural engineer working for a division of a firm that is affiliated with the power industry.The lesson here for all leaders and managers (and there is a difference in those two) is that we still have room to grow up and be adults. It's getting better - I'm cheered that 66% of my women can't believe that men would openly talk about sex and have tool calendars in the open in the office. But 33% of the women said that was a normal office and a normal day.
I learned quite some time ago in my MSCE studies during a required course, "Indeterminate Structural Analysis," to respect out loud, clearly when you sense or see something that isn't familiar or clear before moving forward with "Obvious Solutions."
After all, there is a clue to this philosophy right in the title of the course!
Hence, the reason I have inserted the quote below from a popular psychology periodical.
"I think this usage is now common, but it's really beside the point. Call it sexism, male chauvinism, or any other name, it adds up to the same thing: ideologies and methods for controlling, restricting, suppressing, denigrating, and, when necessary, physically harming women so that men can be in charge of their reproductive capacities, limit them mainly to reproductive and other subservient roles, and avoid competing with them in an open market of human effort, talent, and skill. In other words, you don't have to hate women to behave hatefully toward them."
One example of this "Indeterminate" social psychology challenge was neatly postulated by Chad:
"Setting up girls to be successful engineers or any other professional starts early! Engineering has historically been a male dominated profession, the inverse of teaching. So where do our members fit into solving the problem?"
Q. What do you think about adding to this thread's dialogue suggested "Tools & Techniques" to make,at the very least, some rudimentary fact-based process planning support to Patricia's question?
 Private email to Hayden.
 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-tangled-wing/201210/misogyny-chauvinism-sexism-or-what downloaded 11DEC2019
Award Abstract #1733897 SBP: The Roots of Female Underrepresentation in STEM  and Beyond: Exploring the Development of Gender Stereotypes about Intelligence
"This project examines the development of a key factor leading to women's underrepresentation in science and technology. Specifically, it examines the development of the cultural stereotype that links males but not females with intellectual brilliance and genius. Previous research has found that academic disciplines that are believed to require a "spark of genius" tend to have the largest gender gaps. Because many science fields are portrayed in such terms, the "brilliance = males" stereotype may be an important factor in explaining the persistent gender gap in these disciplines. . . . . ."
So, as we listen to Helen, Shirley, and Martha share their substantial career experiences while simply and simultaneously practicing engineering and struggling to understand why male engineers seem to move forward and upward in their responsibilities at a faster pace, so far some have characterized this all-to-common environment as a unique "Engineering Profession Attribute."
The snippet from a recent news article that follows belies that faulty assumption.
Worthless.Gutless. Online Attacks Rise When the Mayor Is a Woman 
3. Professional Associations
p.s. For some reason, the expression "Fish or cut bait" comes to mind.