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  • 1.  Startling statistics about female leaders in engineering

    Posted 07-22-2019 08:05 AM
    I came across this article by Zweig group that cites the following statistics based on their survey of Architecture, Engineering, and Construction professionals:

    • 100% of female engineering principals in AEC have considered leaving the industry, as compared to 49% of men.
    • 0% of female engineering principals in AEC were given any portion of their ownership for free. In contrast, 1 in 3 men (33%) reported that they had been given some portion of ownership for free.

    There's been a number of women in engineering threads on this forum, but none that specifically discuss the lack of female engineers in leadership. Yes, things are improving, and some companies are ahead of the curve. But, the above are recent statistics, which makes them especially concerning. 

    What do you think about these statistics? Can you give any examples of corporate policies others might be able to model that successfully mitigate what many refer to as the "leaky pipeline" for women (and minorities also) in engineering?  

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

  • 2.  RE: Startling statistics about female leaders in engineering

    Posted 07-23-2019 10:03 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 07-23-2019 10:03 AM

    Thank you for starting this thread. As a female engineering early in my career (a little under a year out from PE licensure), I'm interested to see what feedback others have. Those statistics are not what I would have guessed. It makes me thankful that I have started my career out at a firm in which we have females in our ownership. If fact, our owner with the most shares is one of the women that joined the firm in its earliest years.

    For any women beyond my experience level, are there specific things that led you to consider leaving the industry? If you didn't leave, why did you decide to stay? Perhaps the reasons will help shed a little light on where we, as an industry, are falling short so far on mitigating this situation.

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

  • 3.  RE: Startling statistics about female leaders in engineering

    Posted 07-24-2019 01:54 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 07-24-2019 01:53 PM
    I want to comment on this statistic brought forward by Stephanie Slocum.
    • 100% of female engineering principals in AEC have considered leaving the industry, as compared to 49% of men.

    I read the article by Zweig group.  That article has an example that the author made a big deal about, but I think as a male, she may be taking the compliment out of context.  The comment I think may be out of context, and probably not taken the way it was given was "My wife would like your shoes."  This is comment on liking her style, not that "I like your women style".  When a man compliments another man on, "I like your boots" it is never given or taken as "I like your man boots," and should be taken as a compliment.  When a man says "my wife would like your shoes," it is a complement on your style, and should not "throw you off your game as you try to figure out how to respond."   Thank you is always an appropriate response.  

    I think the reason why more female engineering principals in AEC companies have considered leaving comes from 3 pressures, only 2 of which are related to AEC.
    1.  Women are smarter than men when it comes to work-life balance.  When AEC companies start being more flexible in their thinking regarding that, we will have fewer women stating they thought about leaving.  This comes back to the number of hours engineering-leaders expect our employees to work, and the number of hours we expect our employees to bill.  This also comes back to face-hours engineering-leaders expect from employees.  I have interviewed people transferring companies, and many have said that they were leaving because the company was asking them to work 20 hours of under-the-table, overtime every week, and not charge it.  They felt this was unethical, and unmanageable if you wanted a work-life balance.  The people I interviewed were both men and women.  To most of the men, this was a job change.  To the women, this was an opportunity to determine if AEC was really what they wanted long-term."
    2. AEC companies in general are not very flexible employers.  When I started working in the industry, the standard was "We work 6am to 8pm five to six days a week, and we are not allowed to work from home, or from alternative locations without a lot of paper work which I am not going to process."  In the almost 30 years since I started work, this has changed a little bit, but not a whole bunch.  As engineering companies, we need to start looking at work sharing (two people sharing jobs), having less than full time employees, and allowing unusual working environments (work at home, work at 3 in the morning, etc.), or we are going to remain uncompetitive as a long-term employment option.   These alternatives need to include healthcare, disability and retirement benefits.  
    3.  I think that women are more honest when they answer the question, about "have they ever thought about leaving," than men.  Women are more likely to look at a question like that, and remember the time that they were on the way home at midnight and wondered what life would be like without this job.  The men I know would not remember this as a time that they "thought about leaving the industry."   To us, it is blowing off steam.  I think that if the question was changed  to "have you ever seriously looked at a job outside the industry," you would get about the same percentage from men, and a very different percentage from women. 

    Back to the article from Zweig, I can see the author's point on the other two examples she gives.  As men, in a men dominated business, (but not for long based on the percentage of women graduating compared to men) we are foolish when we assume that the only reason a women is present is for some menial task, or as someone's assistant.   It is never good to go into a meeting with any assumptions about the people, and shows how small we are if we do so.

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

  • 4.  RE: Startling statistics about female leaders in engineering

    Posted 07-29-2019 03:14 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 07-29-2019 03:14 PM

    I will be interested to read the follow-up report that may dig deeper to analyze what that remark was based on by both women and men. The article does not say why, when, for what reason, just that at some point they thought, "I'm out of here." In my not-so-humble opinion, women are less hesitant to say what they truly feel, perhaps that plays a part. This goes to Dwayne's point #3. 

    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: Startling statistics about female leaders in engineering

    Posted 07-31-2019 10:51 AM
    I have been a recruiter in the AEC industry for almost 20 years. Times have definitely changed. It use to be that 95% of the candidates in the industry were male and they would go almost anywhere for a new opportunity that would further their careers. To find a female in the industry was unusual and extremely rare if they were willing to relocate for a new opportunity. Today the percent of male/female engineers has changed but not all that much. Maybe it's 85% men and 15% women.

    Going back to Dwayne's comment regarding work/life balance, that has changed dramatically.  It's not just the women who won't change jobs, it's men also.  There are quite a few factors that play into this, which I won't bore you with now, but obviously a huge part of that is our current rate of unemployment.  But I have found it's also men who have discovered that there is such a thing as work/life balance. It's not always about the money or the growth opportunities or the amazing projects these engineers would be working on if they made a change. It's about not wanting to up and relocate their families.  It's about not wanting to move for every project or travel 5 days a week. I think a lot of men out there are finding that there is more to life.

    I've had numerous discussions with clients about allowing candidates to work from one of the clients location closer to the candidates current home or working from home a couple of days a week, etc. The response is typically that the team is located in one place and that's how it works best. With the technology today (video conferencing for example), it just doesn't seem to make any sense that there can't be more flexibility. The cost to a company of leaving a position empty for months on end is huge not only in production but in jobs that can't be bid because a company doesn't have the manpower.  In this unprecedented low rate of unemployment, I believe there just have to be some changes made.  I believe women especially would be less inclined to leave the industry, and more inclined to enter the industry, if employers would make some of these small concessions.

    Susie Yager Aff.M.ASCE
    Career Consultants LLC
    Omaha NE

  • 6.  RE: Startling statistics about female leaders in engineering

    Posted 07-30-2019 03:33 PM

    These are disheartening statistics. It would be interesting to see more details, such as how many people of each gender responded.

    I am aware of the problems and biases in general, and have heard stories from friends and acquaintances and seen the statistics. I have been lucky enough or oblivious enough to never have perceived any difference in attitude from colleagues or managers based on my gender. Having said that, I have no information on how did my salary and that of my female colleagues compare to that of my male colleagues.  In two out of three workplaces, a woman was my immediate supervisor, and in the third one, a woman was the supervisor of my supervisor. If I had doubts about a career in AEC, it was from the perspective of finding the best match to my interests and capabilities. 

    The reasons that Dwayne listed became major drivers for me after having children. A part of it may be that, for a woman, having children and going on a maternity leave, however short it may be, creates a 'natural' opportunity to ask yourself a question "do I want to come back?", which is not the same as asking yourself "do I want to leave?" while fully submerged in work.

    On a side note - the shoe comment in the article would have been fine during a break, but was weird and disrespectful in the middle of the author's presentation.

    Natalya Sokolovskaya P.E.,M.ASCE
    Wynnewood PA

  • 7.  RE: Startling statistics about female leaders in engineering

    Posted 08-06-2019 07:58 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 08-07-2019 01:18 PM

    I've worked for most of my adult life in male dominated industries, currently in civil engineering (14 years). A caveat is that civil engineering currently has a good amount of women under 50 percent practicing, so it doesn't feel all that male dominated in the office, but it does in workplace expectations.

    I don't discount the writer's experiences or reactions. I don't know her age, but mine is 48. Many people try to connect in a friendly, personal way in a work situation. No one should ever be interrupted while giving a presentation, that is disrespectful and can be demeaning. What I've noticed in the workplace is that women actually do compliment each other on appearance very regularly. What I've noticed with men is that they really do lob friendly "insults" with each other very regularly. Neither of these cross generations or genders very well. Many older men in engineering can be very awkward trying to break the ice with colleagues. I think that when a person is joining a workplace, it could be helpful to have a workplace etiquette education for intergenerational and intercultural differences. For retroactive training, have one for all.

    What I've seen in the C.E. workplaces is that there are very few women with children in high positions that have a full-time working spouse, and I've never (yet) seen a mother with younger children who is single even in a management position. As a single mother, I have no desire to sacrifice the best care of my children to a career. The best care for most children is provided by parent time and attention. What I did read several years ago, was how men and women managed family demands differently in the workplace in one consulting firm. Almost across the board, women asked managers for a revised and sometimes reduced schedule based on family needs. Also almost across the board, men asked others on their team to cover for them while they took care of family needs. Women who asked for permission generally received lower performance evaluations than did the men who kept their activities outside of the radar of management.

    Another thing I've noticed is no support for EITs to prepare for the PE exam from the employers. As someone who had young children as it came time to take the PE, as well as being single and their sole financial support, I still have not been able to dedicate the time and resources to study well enough to pass. People without the same pressures outside of work are able to put more time and effort into these professional pursuits. I believe that if more engineering employers would pool to sponsor training and support for certifications, we would have more PEs and other certified professionals.

    Colleen Cunningham, EIT
    Portland, OR

  • 8.  RE: Startling statistics about female leaders in engineering

    Posted 12-04-2019 07:38 AM

    So, taking all these comments into account I requested to interview one of "data keepers". Christy Zweig Niehues, Zweig Group's Director of Research and Ecommerce, agreed to be interviewed. I also had the good fortune to hear the author of the "shoe" story, Jamie Claire Kiser, that @Dwayne Culp references as perhaps being taken out of context (I agree, it was hard to be sure based only on the website alone).

    Jamie was the keynote at the SE3 symposium (the SE3 committee is about structural engineering retention and engagement, and is not gender specific), which was held in conjunction with the NCSEA summit in mid-November. Upon hearing the entire story related to the show comment as part of her keynote, I absolutely do not think Jamie took the comment out of context, and if anything the online article downplayed what happened. This wasn't a comment made during small talk. She was giving a presentation to close a (very expensive) deal, and during that presentation, this comment was made when someone asked a question. It wasn't appropriate in that context. Imagine if you poured your heart and soul into a client presentation to win a huge project, only to be interrupted in the middle for a comment about your looks or attire. Not appropriate (unless you're in the fashion industry!) for any gender. 

    ​My interview with Christy was extremely interesting, from the standpoint that Zweig Group has been collecting data on the AEC industry for something like 30 years, and it's only been recently that they've started looking at trends related to gender. Their survey isn't intended to be at all about women in engineering, or diversity. It's about AEC owners (they also ask a lot of questions about where project managers feel like they need more support.) I'm not going to go into great detail here, because you can hear the interview yourselves if interested as part of the She Engineers Virtual Summit next week. (Tickets for this online-only event are free at sheengineerssummit.com and interviews are live for 48 hours, feel free to share with interested parties. Christy's interview is on Thursday, Dec 13th. I also interviewed Robin Kemper, whose interview is on Monday the 9th, and we have several other civil engineers being interviewed as well; you can see all of that via the link noted.)

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

  • 9.  RE: Startling statistics about female leaders in engineering

    Posted 12-04-2019 10:00 AM
    I agree that the comment to Jaime was inappropriate, and in a context that only could be a interpreted as a demeaning statement meant to belittle her.   I agree that the statement was not taken out of context in the original message as I conjectured.  My apologies for the conjecture.

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