Why do so many women leave engineering? ‘Everyday sexism’ in teamwork, says study
World Economic Forum


We Can’t Afford Sexism

Global climate change will bring with it many challenges unlike we’ve seen. We’re already seeing water and food shortages. As our ecosystem adapts, the changes are bringing increased outbreak of well known diseases and the ascendancy of previously rare diseases. As our shorelines change we will face numerous challenges, losses and cost resulting from water encroachment. These are a sliver of the pie of problems we’ve been baking. All of these challenges require that our smartest minds be given the support needed to get each job done. Males of European heritage are a small portion of the workforce required. We can no longer afford to lose so many great minds to the workforce.

Parents, Grandparents, Teachers, and other influencers of youth,

Give your kids Lego sets and other toys that encourage problem solving and creative thinking. Find typing tutor software and have them play with it. Encourage them to learn how to write software or build robots. Spend as much energy with them pursuing scientific interests as you do athletic interests, even if it’s not your thing. Use football plays to teach (learn) geometry. If you can’t afford computers or Legos, build snow, sand, stick or mud castles with them. If you’re not the best at math, teach them whatever technical skills you do have and encourage their solo pursuits in that direction. If they want to be a scientist or engineer, don’t discourage them. If they have aptitude, no matter their number of X chromosomes, be their cheering squad.

Venture Capitalists, Investors, Consumers,

Please make a purposeful effort to invest in products designed and built by women engineers. It would be great if the system worked in such a way that you bought what was convenient and that would somehow support engineers regardless of gender, ability, neurodiversity, race, religion, gender identification, financial pedigree, sexual preference and philosophical or political affiliation. It doesn’t work that way. Someday, I hope it will. Until then, we need to be deliberate. We need to recognize the value of the intellectual resource that we are squandering. We need to seek them out and support them with our dollars.

Women Engineers,

Please don’t leave engineering. Please do leave your crappy job and your sexist bosses and co-workers. Find a place, even if you have to make it, where your ideas are valued as the functional concepts they are. Where your work is critiqued and praised based on shared engineering values. If you have to hire an all women staff, then do it.

If you become an engineering manager, don’t make life more difficult for other women in your workplace. If you’re tempted to engage in junior high style social behaviors, don’t. Please remember what we all have to lose. Do what you can to avoid alienating women engineers. When men see you treating other women engineers poorly, they might see that as a tacit approval for them to do so as well.

If you become an executive of a huge engineering company, remember what it was like earlier in your career. Now that you have the leverage, make changes. Don’t act like those that made your career climb so much longer and more difficult than it needed to be.

Male Engineers,

If you’re lucky enough to work with a woman engineer, get your own damn coffee. Defer to their judgement when they know more than you about something. Grow up and give them credit for their ideas instead of claiming it for your own. Mentor a young engineer without leering or commenting on how they look. Don’t partake in talking tRump when out of their hearing range. Stop engaging in behavior that demeans them. Stop because it’s wrong. Stop because you are demeaning yourself as well. Stop because it’s non-optimal behavior for an engineer.

Mea Culpa

I am a male engineer. I know for a fact that I’ve engaged in behavior that does disservice to my fellow engineers. If you want to point fingers, go ahead, I accept responsibility for anything I may have done, said, or implied. After throwing shade my way, spend a moment to look back on your own interactions with women engineers. Only spend a moment though, we’ve got a lot of work to do together.