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Female Engineers

  • 1.  Female Engineers

    Posted 05-03-2017 17:09

    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.



    ------------------------------
    Particia Harburg-Petrich A.M.ASCE
    Associate Principal
    Burohappold
    Santa Monica CA
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 05-04-2017 09:21
    Not to sound snarky but a big issue / reason almost every discussion about this subject ignores is the industry doesn't need more managers.  The ratio of managers to staff requires a natural decrease simply because there are less positions.  One manager to 10 to 15 positions, means that even if all the positions are filled by <name your so-called under-represented group>, at any given point you will still have only one manager. Depending on how long that person fills that position, the count will remain one. So, unless you create a hugely inefficient system of, say, 15 managers to one staff, you will not raise the number of positions nor increase the ratio because the numbers alone work against the effort to artificially force a change.

    Now that purely organizational structure issue doesn't explain why those available positions are staffed as they are.

    I continue to wonder where these bias based firms are.  In my 34 years in the business, I have not personally observed nor practiced wide spread nor small spread bias.  I have been in firms with large numbers of women engineers and technicians, and some with small numbers. Same with leaders.  I have been in areas of the country with large numbers of women engineers and some with small numbers. I continue to see the numbers fluctuate over time. I have hired, promoted, and laid off all types of staff members.  I have found degreed engineers dumber than a box of rocks and technicians smarter than a PhD.  I have observed people of all types abuse substances, affecting their careers.  I have encountered only one possibly biased individual in that span and that person had a behavioral / mental health condition more than bias.  The largest challenge I have encountered is a lack of qualified people for a position.  It didn't matter who I wanted to apply, it was who actually did apply and their apparent abilities to perform the position requirements. I have also hired with certain plans and intentions for staffing and promotions only to have economic forces dictate a change of those plans.  I also have yet to encounter equally qualified people for a position.  Each person has a set of skills and abilities that must be judged and compared to be best for a position. Each person is a trade off.  If you alter the equality of the judgement by forcing a preference artificially, you actually introduce bias rather than eliminate it.

    Similarly, you can't force people to stay in a profession. While I have found my field interesting over time, some stretches have been incredibly boring. Some stretches have been wonderfully exciting to counter that. The field pays adequately but not rewardingly. Not every project will be glamorous. Many firms do incredibly repetitive projects that are not intellectually challenging. The projects don't push the design or knowledge envelope.  But, they require engineering design and produce a profit for those firm owners.  Many people get bored with this type of work.  For every bridge over the Mississippi River, there are 10,000 single span, 100 foot long bridges or box culverts using standardized design components over a Walnut or Oak or Bull Creek.  People look elsewhere for stimulating work and leave the profession.

    Rarity is not necessarily a problem by definition.  A few good <name your so-called under-represented group> leaders can be a good sign as well. It means skill, ability and leadership are recognized and can thrive.  Leadership is recognizable, but don't dismiss followership. Good followers can make an organization shine more than good leaders because, while a leader may get you there, it is the doing that produces the results.

    ------------------------------
    Bradley Novacek P.E., M.ASCE
    Phoenix AZ
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  • 3.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 05-04-2017 15:02
    Patricia:
    Having worked for both very large (Jacobs Engineering Group) and smaller, I have seen the following two components at play in the path to leadership.
    1.  The women that want to be promoted generally are.  Since starting engineering almost 25 years ago, this really hasn't changed.  That being said, I have seen many more women asked to be unpromoted in that same time period than I have seen men.  When I asked them, some of which were friends, these women stated that they liked being project engineers and project managers, but did not like the politics that goes with higher positions.  They still wanted to be engineers, but did not want the headaches of management.
    2.  Many women use their engineering degrees to become senior management in non-engineering companies, especially those that have combined engineering degrees with management degrees or experience.  For example, the best qualified engineer for her age that I know is a vice president of a home building company.  She uses her expertise in project management and understanding of the design process to very successfully interface with engineering project managers.

    Senior management in the traditional engineering companies reflects the proportion of engineers from 30 years ago.  When I was in school, women represented approximately 5-10% of the graduating class.  They represent 5-10% of senior management now.  My son's engineering class was approximately 40% women.  I would expect that 30 years from now, there will be 40% of senior management for traditional engineering companies as women.

    The way to get more women in senior positions, is to get more women into engineering, and continue to address some of the issues that cause engineers to quit being engineers including: mandatory minimum office face time, rigid work schedules and only 40 hour work weeks.  I wish engineering was more like nursing with potential 12-hour shift 3 day work weeks, many part time jobs, opportunities for nights and weekends.  In other words, make engineering companies places where work gets done around life, rather than life gets done in the time we are not at work.  It is getting better because of the internet, but still has a ways to go.

    ------------------------------
    Dwayne Culp Ph. D., P.E., P.Eng, M.ASCE
    Culp Engineering, LLC
    Richmond TX
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 11-30-2019 22:07
    Hi Dwayne.
    Some 2 1/2 years ago your response to Patricia's main point "I see very few women at the management level." above starts with:
    "1.  The women that want to be promoted generally are.  Since starting engineering almost 25 years ago, this really hasn't changed."

    With 20/20 hindsight, how would you answer Patricia's question today?

    If the same, OK.

    If not, help us understand what's changed.

    Cheers,
    Bill


    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-02-2019 11:01
    I dislike being taken out of context, but my opinion stands.  If a woman engineer desires to be promoted, and makes that desire know to her supervisors, they generally are promoted.  The problem with quick comparisons of engineers in leading positions, and woman engineers in leading positions, we are forgetting the time element in becoming a leader.  It takes 20-30 years for any engineer to reach the point of senior management.  The number of women engineers in senior positions in engineering companies better than reflects the proportion of women engineers in the graduating civil engineering community 20-30 years ago.

    Today, approximately 45-55% of any freshman civil engineering class are women.  I expect that 20-30 years from now, we will find that women who are engineers will represent 45-55% of senior management.  You need to notice, that I did not say senior civil engineering company management, because graduate civil engineers become management in a whole lot of different industries.

    I do think that the younger women engineers that I have worked with are more polite in their approach to making their desire to be promoted known than are the younger men engineers.  The younger women I worked with generally did not want to rock the boat by demanding a promotion.  The younger men had no problem with that.  The women preferred that their record of accomplishment speak for itself.  I think that records will be recognized, but they are recognized more quickly when they have an advocate.  The young men I knew were much better self promoters, and so got promoted sooner, or moved on so that they could be promoted in another company.

    If we can teach our young girls something early in their life, it is that being excellent, and telling people that you are excellent is not rude or anti-social behavior.  The teen age girls I know would rather bite their arm off, than tell people about how they are excellent.  The boys have no problem with not only telling people how good they are, they also generally exaggerate their excellence.   I also noticed on hundreds of self evaluations, women give themselves lower scores than did the men.  I think that is a symptom of the same issue.  Are the women more self aware, self critical, or are they just being polite, and are unwilling to find a reason to promote their excellence?  As a supervisor, I generally ranked the men lower than they ranked themselves, and ranked the women better than they ranked themselves.  Is this part of the same issue?

    ------------------------------
    Dwayne Culp, Ph.D., Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Culp Engineering, LLC
    Rosenberg TX
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-03-2019 08:39
    Dwayne,

    While I think there are other factors that influence the number of women that reach senior management, as a general rule I think there is a lot of truth in what you said. Even with just a few years in industry under my belt, I find that I am much less likely than my male counterparts to push for a pay increase or advocate for myself in those ways.

    I've thought about it, and I honestly don't know the reason. I'm not sure if it is the societal "act like a lady" kind of things we learn from a young age. Maybe it's my personality and the fear that being told my boss thinks I'm not at the level that I think I am.

    Whatever the reason, I'm thankful to have a mentor and bosses that push me to be the best I can. They ask me what my career and life ambitions are and how they can help me get there.
    So, my request to others out there with young female engineers in your life is this:
    Have honest conversations with them. Ask them where they want to go. Help them develop a roadmap to get there. Don't assume you know their aspirations, and don't assume if they weren't happy that they would be bold enough to let you know without a little encouragement.

    ------------------------------
    Heidi Wallace EI, A.M.ASCE
    Engineer Intern
    Tulsa OK
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-03-2019 10:01
    Thank you Heidi.

    I definitely agree with your points about how we help more young women engineers become young women project managers.  Honest conversations, and helping them understand their roadmap will be very helpful.


    ------------------------------
    Dwayne Culp, Ph.D., Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Culp Engineering, LLC
    Rosenberg TX
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-03-2019 11:29

    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  





    ------------------------------
    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    President/Owner
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-03-2019 16:05

    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?"

    1. Patricia, and most other women civil engineers, how much longer will you "Politely & Silently"accept the above male advice, which we used to call "Mushroom Management?"
    2. Stop being so very "civil"about this historical, hysterical, generational, and continuing discounting of your person within the civil engineering hierarchy.

     "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.
        

    1. 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



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-04-2019 08:37
    This is a great post to dredge up from the archives!

    The premise that "people who want to be promoted, get promoted" hides something. People don't learn what they don't get taught. Any good manager should not pick and choose who they groom to be future managers. Everyone under them should be given the same learning opportunities and the same types of project roles that allow them to grow into a future leader. Then the manager should give all of them feedback on how to improve. In general, leadership is a learned behavior. Sure, there is the trope of a "born leader" but if you look at the life of those born leaders you will see a constant grooming and teaching them of relevant skills from childhood.

    Confidence is one of those important skills that should be taught to everyone on staff. With confidence comes the ability to self-promote. However, the manager shouldn't always look at the strongest self-promoters to fill higher level positions. Over-confidence can sometimes signal more problems than under-confidence.

    A good manager should not only promote people who demand promotions, they should review the skills and experience of everyone equally. Demanding that under-represented people speak louder to get the same opportunities is, in my humble opinion, part of the problem...

    ------------------------------
    Yance Marti P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer IV
    City of Milwaukee
    Milwaukee WI
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-04-2019 22:06
    Yance, thank you for your thoughts. There seems to be an issue with the lack of "good managers."  More on that below.
    I also would say that, at least when I speak of it, advocacy covers far more than promotions. It encompasses things like a push for flexibility in work hours. No one in the engineering industry should feel like they have to choose one option between family life and their career. With today's technology there are successful firms with flexible hours. Say a mom or dad could work from 6:30 - 3:30 and be there with their kids after school. But, there are women that have quit instead of advocating for options.

    I think a good deal of the issues on who is and isn't groomed for leadership stem from a couple sources:

    1-  How many engineers or smaller firm owners have any formal business training on how to effectively build their leadership? It seems to me based on looking at drawings from previous construction projects on my sites that many civil firms die after a couple generations. Leadership development either isn't a priority or isn't carried out well.
    2- People's default is often to be drawn to people like themselves. Now this is not true of all, but it is true of many. In a group of women in the ACE industry, someone shared about the dangers of what some mean when they say they want a new hire or promoted person to fit within the "company culture."
    This is fine if company culture is based on things like flexibility, collaboration, quality, etc. -- things that make the product better and expand perspectives to find solutions.
    This is not fine if company culture is based on things like working long days, beers after work, and corporate golf tournaments for bonding.

    So, based on the discussion thus far, I think there are a few steps to be taken in industry.
    As a general rule, women need to be bold and advocate for ourselves. That could look like having that conversation with your boss about an opportunity. It could be finding someone that is willing to give you honest feedback on how you are really doing. Where can you improve and in what areas do you need to be more confident in yourself? If possible, find a woman that has gone before you (even if not at your company or someone in a tangentially related field like architecture) and learn from her. What is she glad she did? Are there things she would do differently? How have things changed since her career started? It also looks like groups of women actively assessing the situation and coming up with action steps for the C-suite and project managers of AEC firms to take. This is something ElevateHer is working toward right now.
    The responsibility doesn't fall solely on women. Men in leadership positions need to be proactive in growing their management skills. Just like we have continuing education for technical skills, there are opportunities to learn what it looks like to manage people across genders, generations, ethnic backgrounds, etc. A cohesive team can be developed across all of these barriers, and it can bring a depth of experiences and knowledge that enhance the technical design.

    On a positive note: I have found in my career little purposeful sexism. My age-group peers have never made me feel like less of an engineer for being a female. Our project managers are amazing and encouraging. Even the contractors I've worked with have, on the whole, been respectful and good to work alongside.
    Sure, there have been some moments in which something was done that was inadvertently or absentmindedly biased, but when brought up it was dealt with. The few cases of inappropriate action/speech were addressed.
    Listening to the stories of some of the ladies that have gone before me in industry, this has not always been the case. It gives me hope that things are improving.

    So, in closing, I ask that the men in our industry have an open mind about places improvements can be made. Ask questions, be open to the results of studies and focus groups, and grow in soft skills along with technical skills. Even though most engineers tend to think we know "why" things are the way they are, be open to influential factors you may have not considered previously. Advocate with us, not for us. It can be a little tiring when someone assumes they know what your struggles are or what hurdles you need to overcome next. As I said in a previous response: please ask us where we want to go and help us get there.
    Thank you, Dwayne and Bevin, for your thoughts on advocacy. Your support of advocacy gives me faith that those like you will be better listeners when a woman comes in needing to discuss the options for flexibility in work hours or another factor that may be causing women to leave AEC for other fields.

    ------------------------------
    Heidi Wallace EI, A.M.ASCE
    Engineer Intern
    Tulsa OK
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-06-2019 12:54

    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 [1]

    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 [2]

    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

    [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC6JdT_6R9M

    [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K48LhGk7gtk



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-25-2019 22:26
    Hi William,

    The two links named "The State of Women in Civil Engineering" and "How I succeeded......" couldn't be accessed on my computer. Could you check if they are available? If so, I'll check my Browser.

    Cheers,

    ------------------------------
    Jiqiu Wang R.Eng, M.ASCE
    Senior Quantity Surveyor
    Shenzhen
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-09-2019 12:12
    • According to Yance, "Demanding that under-represented people speak louder to get the same opportunities is,
                                                        in my humble opinion, part of the problem..."

     With all possible respect, the statement above provides the very "Restraining Force[1] 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!" .[2]

     

     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

     

    [1] See Kurt Lewin's "Force-Field Analysis," and consider Lewin's B = f (I, E).

    [2] https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/march-on-washington 



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-07-2019 13:27
    Generally, I have seen that males tend to seek titles more than woman do. (Although I really don't like making generalizations...) When a woman is asked to chair a committee, she typically sees all the work it will be and makes the decision after careful consideration. Men typically jump at the title and can soon be victim to the peter principle - getting promoted to the level of their incompetencies. Or they just don't realize how much work it will be and don't allocate enough time to do a good job. It has been shown that women physicians spend more time talking to their students and women college professors spend more time with their students. Women engineers often value making a difference to being bogged down managing people and budgets.

    I chose the technical path over the managerial path after years in management. I became an engineer to solve technical problems and missed that. Also, people still say that women get promoted because they are a woman, rather than based on their ability. So, many women are constantly having to prove their ability and list their credentials in a way that men aren't.

    What are the solutions? Ask women if they would want a managerial path and then train them and support them so that they will feel ready when the time comes to be managers. And allow for more flexible schedules. Women can get their job done working flexible hours or even part time, so don't make the qualifications for manager synonymous with married white male characteristics - such as working into the evenings, supposedly to be a good role model. I am on many committees that meet on weekends and are dominated by men. When we poll the group on whether to meet during the week, these men WANT to work on weekends. We won't get more women on these committees as long as this is the criteria. I am slowly dropping off of these committees so that I can spend more time with my grandchildren. If this were one committee, that would be different. However spending every weekend in April and October away from my family (and missing spring and fall) is not worth it anymore.

    ------------------------------
    Martha Vangeem P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal Engineer
    Self-Employed
    Mount Prospect IL
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-08-2019 10:43
    Martha makes a good point about the need to consider what people want when comparing outcomes.  It's certainly not the case that everyone simply wants to 'rise as high as they can'.  Based on their abilities, interests, personal circumstances, ambition, etc., we all see that engineers often make conscious choices to get involved or not get involved in project management, department management, executive-level leadership, business development, etc., and owners of engineering firms similarly make choices about how large they want their companies to be and the types of work their companies specialize in.

    It would be interesting to see studies on what various groups of people (such as female versus male engineers) want, to provide some context when comparing percentages of people in various roles, salaries, etc.

    ------------------------------
    Irfan A. Alvi, P.E., M.ASCE
    President & Chief Engineer
    Alvi Associates, Inc.
    Towson, Maryland
    www.alviassociates.com
    ialvi@...
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-08-2019 14:05
    Here is a 2012 survey showing that women are slightly more likely than men to place an importance on a high-paying career such as engineering. Both men and women want a work-life balance including marriage and children. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/04/19/a-gender-reversal-on-career-aspirations/

    Small study but telling because this one notes that women have high aspirations but anticipate more barriers: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jasp.12271?casa_token=BcaDper0K7AAAAAA%3AlMqHNtlumbyXm7cLQ-6d2YCtE3vwmOhztrsT8DEdwvDEatVrZIay9SG3ON_2VSjKOE3sh5OXw83QMsI

    Equally as important are the barriers to men being encouraged to have a work-life balance. Gender equality and work-life balance: Glass handcuffs and working men in the US (Taylor and Francis, 2015).

    ------------------------------
    Shirley Clark Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, F.EWRI, M.ASCE
    Professor
    Penn State Harrisburg
    Middletown PA
    Penn State HarrisburgProfessor
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-08-2019 14:28

    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.



    ------------------------------
    Shirley Clark Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, F.EWRI, M.ASCE
    Professor
    Penn State Harrisburg
    Middletown PA
    Penn State HarrisburgProfessor
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-09-2019 10:12
    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?  How many of our members fathers or uncles?  How can we instill equality as a value in the next generation?

    As a father of a toddler daughter, I have seen first hand how she always seeks female role models to emulate.  The role models are there and you just have to follow their lead to find them.  Be honest with them about history.  You don't see the impact putting a woman on a coin has, until your toddler starts asking you about Sacagawa or Susan B. Anthony.  It's past due to put a woman on a bill, not for PC reasons, but because it does matter.  My daughter does not want to be Neil Armstrong or Charles Lindbergh, she wants to be Sally Ride or Amelia Earhart.  She also wants to be Spider-Woman and Deborah Harry.  She has many community role models at the library, farm, and church, as well. She will typically ask me about any female engineers who I work with.  Are there any famous female civil engineers that I can teach her about?

    My wife left the teaching profession to raise our toddler and our little boy who just arrived!  The pay, the hours, and the bureaucracy are all major factors in her choice.  That profession faces its own challenges in the future.  Regardless, the focus should be on the education needs of the children and it is up to our engineering profession to communicate our expectations to schools.  Being good at math is not the be-all-end-all for becoming a good engineer.  Is that message being conveyed?

    ------------------------------
    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-09-2019 10:36
    Here are several lists of famous female civil engineers and famous female engineers.

    http://istonline.org.in/5-famous-women-civil-engineers/
    Famous Female Civil Engineers
    https://gizmodo.com/six-women-who-paved-the-way-for-female-engineers-and-ar-1561870366

    Also check with your young professionals group in your local ASCE or institute chapter. They likely have very good role female role models.

    But as a geeky engineer, it's great to take kids to see these famous landmarks and have them realize that some are designed and built by men and some are designed and built by women.

    I was very fortunate because I didn't have a female role model or mentor. BUT (and I am eternally grateful to them) I had fantastic male mentors and role models and a father who was an engineer and who didn't believe in limitations due to gender.



    ------------------------------
    Shirley Clark Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, F.EWRI, M.ASCE
    Professor
    Penn State Harrisburg
    Middletown PA
    ------------------------------



  • 21.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-09-2019 14:04
    LeanIn.org's 2019 Women in the Workforce report noted that the "broken rung is the biggest obstacle women face". This is that first step from individual contributor to management. You can see the overall issue in the graphic below (which is in the report linked above):

    REPRESENTATION IN THE CORPORATE PIPELINE BY GENDER AND RACE
    What can we do about it? A couple of things:

    1. Corporations: Establish clear, transparent expectations on what it takes to be promoted. I think many organizations - and especially the many, many small to midsize organizations in civil engineering, have never taken the time to write this down, let alone lay this out to all employees in a sucinct, consistent way. Regardless of intentions, when expectations are not clear and measurable, bias ends up playing into decision-making, and there is a general feeling that "things are not fair" among all employees. This alone has huge benefits to the entire work culture, not only women and minorities.

    2. Individuals (all genders): If you want to be promoted, understand it is up to you to make this VERY VERY VERY (can I add a few more "very's" here?) clear to your current manager and boss that you have those aspirations.
    In every performance review, you can say "I aspire to a management position, what do I need to do to get there", and then craft a plan with your manager. If you get a "deer in the headlights" look when you say this, or are continually put off year after year (i.e. you are doing the work, but there's always an excuse as to "why you aren't there yet"), consider moving on to a more growth-oriented environment.

    Others on this thread have alluded to the fact that men tend to ask for this more than women do, which is statistically supported. What the other posters may not have mentioned is that women often face more backlash - from both men and women - when they advocate for themselves. Don't let that stop you.

    3. All: Recognize that generally you have to "see it to be it." and do everything you can to support and promote mentorship, especially for traditionally unrepresented groups. That means: If you don't already have female leadership at a high level in your firm (or she's too swamped to do mentorship), find a way for your up-and-coming women to meet other women in their field in those positions, like supporting them in women in engineering groups. For example, there is WiSE, a women in structural engineering group, and other groups like SWE. If you are in leadership, actively mentor the next generation. For men mentoring women, be blunt about the fact that you don't understand everything younger women may be facing (and yes, you need to explictly say.be willing to admit this before many women will open up to you!), but you want to do what you can to help her along, and so you are committed to mentoring and listening.

    Along those lines, I've put together an online conference for women in engineering and allies Dec 9-13, called the She Engineers 2019 Virtual Summit. All the interviews are FREE for 48 hours, and are for curated women in engineering working "in the trenches". I'd encourage everyone on this thread to sign up if interested (links are emailed to you upon sign-up). Two of the interviews today (Monday, 12/9/19) were @Robin Kemper, and Andi Dumont, both civil engineers. We also talked to Jocelyn Jackson, the National Chair of the National Association of Black Engineers, about what we can do to better support minority women. We have 25 inspirational role models and experts in "women in the workforce" to help others "see it to be it."



    ​​​

    ------------------------------
    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Founder
    Engineers Rising LLC
    www.engineersrising.com
    ------------------------------



  • 22.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-10-2019 12:29

    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. 



    ------------------------------
    Shirley Clark Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, F.EWRI, M.ASCE
    Professor
    Penn State Harrisburg
    Middletown PA
    ------------------------------



  • 23.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-16-2019 11:36

    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.[2] 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?

     With respect, understanding, and love for all,
    Bill

     

    [1] Private email to Hayden.

    [2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-tangled-wing/201210/misogyny-chauvinism-sexism-or-what downloaded 11DEC2019

     



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 24.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-22-2019 09:25
    Feedback has noted the opinions of caring educated, professional engineers, women and men.

    I recently read of research on Patricia's question that included sources related to this thread's topic.

    And such research was offered by professional's in related fields of study that bear directly on the subject.

    It is shared below.

    Cheers. . . and the very best of the New Year to one and all,
    Bill
    <>======================<>=================<>

    Award Abstract #1733897
     SBP: The Roots of Female Underrepresentation in STEM [1] and Beyond: Exploring the Development of Gender Stereotypes about Intelligence

     ABSTRACT

    "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. . . . . ."

    [1] https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1733897&HistoricalAwards=false

      Downloaded 22DEC2019



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 25.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-23-2019 13:50
    Image result for cultural icebergI'm taking an ESL tutoring course, and one of the subjects is the different cultures - because learning language is also learning the underlying culture. So, the take-away for diverse engineers, and their opportunities, is that we get some opportunities on the engineering culture above the water line. But little, and big, hiccups happen when we try to be whole people. And hiccups = different "opportunities", and lower salaries.
    People keep talking about the "onlies". For my entire career, I was the first and only, and it is a true bummer to see young women at SWE meetings, just starting out with their families, and having to deal with the dumb stuff in 2019. I've been "aggressive", I worked two weeks past my first due date (because it panicked the guys I was working with - and I felt FINE!), I've taken the jobs the guys wouldn't, I almost had a mentor once (sigh), and I've made less pay than my husband every year, because I had lesser jobs. I've tried to be there for the younger engineers and others facing the Lexan Ceiling (you can break glass with a simple hammer, after all), and I'm every client's first woman engineer on most jobs, still. And I do Girl Scout events, and demonstrations in schools. I started my own company, and I'm never going to retire. They're going to have to take my steaming body out of some crawl space.
    I'm not going to give up, or be pushed out. The people with deep culture problems will just have to deal with me.
    And, maybe, eventually, they can change their minds.

    ------------------------------
    Helen Watts P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal
    Helen Watts Engineering PLLC
    Bowdoin ME
    ------------------------------



  • 26.  RE: Female Engineers

    Posted 12-24-2019 08:51

    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 [1]

    "Female mayors are more than twice as likely as male mayors to experience psychological abuse and almost three times as likely to experience physical violence, a new study found.. . . . . Female mayors are more than twice as likely as male mayors to experience psychological abuse and almost three times as likely to experience physical violence, a new study found."

    Q.Given the systemic, historic, well-documented discounting of women in professional fields of endeavor, as well as in far too many of the societal environments women share with men, what if we collectively applied our professional skills collaboratively to address these entrenched, habitual behaviors?

           At the organizational level within the:
               1. Private Sector.
               2. Public Sector.

               3. Professional Associations

     Cheers,

    Bill

    p.s. For some reason, the expression "Fish or cut bait" comes to mind.

     

     

     

         

        

     

     

    [1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/23/us/women-mayors-social-media-abuse.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_191224?campaign_id=2&instance_id=14777&segment_id=19847&user_id=c3eaadcf782adabd39a34eab0c5d264c&regi_id=653809561224

     Downloaded 24DEC2019



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------