Engineering is the most male-dominated field in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It is probably the most male-dominated occupation in the United States, with women accounting for only 13% of the engineering workforce, little wonder why girls avoid engineering courses. For decades, in order to attract more women into the field, engineering educators have been focusing on curriculum reform (for example, by increasing girls’ interest in mathematics and science).
Although these efforts have brought more women to study engineering, the problem is that many people withdraw during and after school. Focusing solely on education does not address the fact that women tend to leave the industry at a higher rate than men. Women account for 20% of engineering graduates, but it is estimated that nearly 40% of women with engineering degrees have either quit or have never entered the industry.
Why men and women enter engineering
Men and women usually sign up for engineering for similar reasons. They described being good at math and science in high school and hoping to get interesting, high-paying career opportunities in the future. However, women add more than men that they want to be socially responsible engineers, committed to solving major problems and changing people’s lives.
Are women not designed for engineering at all?
Biologically speaking, there are differences between the brains of men and women. Boys are better at special tasks. However, girls are good at verbal recall tasks. This is usually an argument that women are not biologically designed for STEM. However, scientifically speaking, this difference is not great, and it has little impact on women’s stem ability. Therefore, biological differences alone cannot provide sufficient evidence and explanation for the lack of women in STEM. There are many famous women in STEM who have proved that they are as capable as men. In addition, countries with less gender equality strangely have more women in STEM. The data clearly shows that the way we deal with this problem is not working. To fix something that doesn’t work, we need to find out why it was destroyed in the first place.
So, why do women studying engineering leave to pursue careers in other fields?
Each occupation introduces students to its unique culture, skills, language, practices and values. Engineering students observe and practice these through group projects, where they learn how to think and act like engineers. They quickly discovered that collaboration and teamwork are core components of engineers.
However, for many female engineering students, the cooperation they came into contact with for the first time was treated in a gender stereotyped way, mainly by their peers. Although some people initially described working in a team positively, more people reported negative experiences. For example, when working with male classmates, they often talk about being downgraded to doing regular management and secretarial work and being excluded from “real” engineering work.
On the other hand, men describe mandatory group design projects as exciting turning points, combining theory and practice. Men are usually assigned interesting problem-solving tasks, where they can develop their analytical and technical skills, while women are often assigned tasks such as organizing papers, copying, collecting equipment, writing notes, and coordination—tasks that they think do not value or develop their skills. This second round of gender stereotypes in the workplace, coupled with unchallenged projects, blatant sexual harassment, and greater isolation from supportive networks, has led many female students to re-examine their ambitions.
Women began to question whether engineering was what they really wanted to do.
5 reasons why girls avoid engineering courses
- The environment shapes girls’ interest and motivation in STEM Girls are interested in STEM. Middle school girls are very interested in STEM. Some sources indicate that about 74% of middle school girls are interested in STEM subjects. However, data from Microsoft shows that when they reach high school, this interest declines. A report by the American Association of University Women (Aauw) shows that the learning environment and social belief systems affect girls’ interest and achievement in STEM subjects. The survey results show that girls who believe that experience and learning expand intelligence are more likely to do better in math tests. They also expressed more interest in pursuing scientific subjects in the future. The opposite belief has achieved the opposite effect. Therefore, the “growth mindset” can have a huge impact on whether girls will maintain their interest and motivation in STEM, or choose a more “feminine” career instead.
- Social prejudice affects women’s progress and career choices Research shows that to this day, people still regard STEM fields as male. Society believes that women in science and engineering are more incompetent than men, unless they have achieved considerable success. Even so, people think they are not so likable. These stereotypes directly affect women’s motivation and emotional state at work and in society. Therefore, even the few women who end up in science and engineering positions are more likely to withdraw from isolation and hostility in the workplace, which are some of the main reasons why they do so.
- Colleges, universities and workplaces have not made enough necessary changes to accommodate female students When it comes to middle school, there are many options and support for girls to develop STEM skills. There are science classes and science fairs, eager to involve girls. However, outside of secondary schools, this support has decreased, and the number of women in stem has also decreased. Fewer girls maintain interest and motivation in science subjects in high school and register for STEM degrees. This has led to a decrease in female graduates in the fields of science, technology and engineering.
- Lack of role models Due to the lack of women in STEM, young girls, students and college graduates do not have many role models to motivate them to choose STEM jobs. Stereotypes and prejudices also shape the public’s perception of what STEM women should look like. Many people in science and other fields are aware of the imbalances that occur in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses. Gender imbalance
- Many girls are afraid of mathematics and calculations: This is what you found out from middle school. Most girls tremble when they encounter mathematics or any calculations. Therefore, many girls avoid engineering courses and similar courses, they would rather go to theoretical or management basic courses.
Today, girls have more opportunities. Organizations such as the World Academy of Sciences, the Women’s Science Organization of the Developing World, the L’Oreal Women’s Science Organization, the Elsevier Foundation, and the British Council of Ghana all have awards, recognitions, and fellowships dedicated to girls and women. Why is there still a lack of women in the absence of professionals in STEM fields?
Data show that women are not inferior to men in engineering. Biological differences alone will not lead to a lack of women in engineering. However, if colleges, universities, and workplaces implement the necessary changes to accommodate women and provide them with more support and a more positive environment, allowing them to focus on their skills without the pressure that men do not have, we will not only see more women working in this field, but also overcome the glut of vacant positions.