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Women in Engineering: Advice for Supporting the "Only's"

  • 1.  Women in Engineering: Advice for Supporting the "Only's"

    Posted 10-24-2018 01:21 PM

    Yesterday, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company released Women in the Workplace 2018, the fourth annual study of women in corporate America. (Read the full report at The general findings were that - for the 4th year in a row - we have made no substantial progress in diversity representation in Corporate America. For the purposes of this study, having "representation" appears to mean that you would expect managers to be representative of the general worker population. For example, if you have 20% female workers, you'd expect 20% female managers at all levels. Same goes for racial makeups.

    One interesting finding is that the report notes that 40% of women in senior and technical roles are "only's," defined as women who are often the only one on their team or in the room. According to the survey, the "only's" are both more ambitious and face more challenges than other women. It's even worse for women of color, all of which contributes to the overall attrition rate in engineering. (For a quick explanation about "only's" that doesn't require you to read the full report, see also: Female workplace representation stalls | LinkedIn.)

    We've all worked on teams with an "only", or you yourself may be one. Please share examples of things you have done (or could do) to support an "only." If you are an "only", please share a time when someone else supported you, or alternatively what we as engineering community can do better to support you.


    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineers Rising LLC

  • 2.  RE: Women in Engineering: Advice for Supporting the "Only's"

    Posted 11-05-2018 01:57 PM
    I was sort of an "only" in an internship a few years ago. We had ~9 interns on a construction site-- 2 of us were female. Out of the rest of the 150+ staff and crew on site there was only 1 other female engineer.

    My boss was pretty good about giving me good work. I did feel very babied out on the site by all of my coworkers, though, especially compared to the male interns who were basically doing physical labor at one point or another. The other female intern was not so lucky-- she was stuck doing a lot of paperwork and was the go-to when the printer broke, which she was very verbally upset about. When it came time for an office kick-off and dinner, the division CEO came to town and pulled me aside personally to tell me they would love to have me full time and could see me as being a great diverse addition to the team and down the road, the executive team. This was great to hear, but unfortunately the day-to-day and onsite company culture just did not match the obvious strides they were trying to take on a corporate level.

    Unfortunately, the construction side of civil engineering has a long way to go in terms of inclusive culture, which is a shame--it's absolutely by far been my favorite position but I am so discouraged to return.

    Peyton Gibson EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Engineer in Training
    Littleton CO

  • 3.  RE: Women in Engineering: Advice for Supporting the "Only's"

    Posted 05-13-2021 12:10 PM
    I just graduated from The Ohio State University; in my year-long Capstone Project, only one member of the team of six was female.

    Every week we worked on our Proposal Design Phase, and later Final Design Phase, all six of us agreed to specific responsibilities; for example, I fleshed out the auxiliary items regarding our plans of building a multimodal transportation hub on campus, and documented our work. We all met to work together twice a week; the "only", being a mother as well, often had to be the first to leave our virtual meetings.

    The group was pretty understanding and flexible with how each of us worked, so long as we completed our responsibilities on time. Her work, which included consulting with professionals about our design, and making illustrations at the internal and external levels, was how she continued working outside the meetings. In turn, I could leave after her since I could document all our work throughout the meetings, and prepare the group for reports before the meetings.

    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Bexley OH
    [email protected]

  • 4.  RE: Women in Engineering: Advice for Supporting the "Only's"

    Posted 05-14-2021 05:57 PM
    Great idea to engage women who actually are in the "OnlY' category.

    Perhaps a place to continue this search is within a 70-year young organization:

    Society of Women Engineers[1]

    "our promise: as a champion of women engineers for nearly 70 years, The Society of Women Engineers is the world's largest advocate and catalyst for change for women in engineering and technology.

    The Society of Women Engineers is the world's largest advocate and catalyst for change for women in engineering and technology."

    "30% of women who have left the engineering profession cite * organizational climate * as the reason."

    Stay Healthy!


    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