SWE’s Culture Study Explains Women’s Attrition in Engineering

SWE’s Culture Study shows women leave engineering jobs at companies because they won’t tolerate two senior leader practices.
SWE's Culture Study Explains Women's Attrition in Engineering

Female Attrition in Engineering:  SWE’s Culture Study Explains How Women are Different

Hiring managers report meeting their gender diversity goals.  But five to eight years later, forty percent of the women leave, particularly those in the leadership pipeline.  SWE’s Culture Study tells a new story about why women leave.  Men and women do not report different experiences.  In fact, both genders report about the same degree of dissatisfaction with their current cultures.  What’s different is that men stay while the women leave.  Why?

Women leave because they won’t tolerate two senior leader practices:  saying one thing and doing another and not removing obstacles standing in the way of the work.

Why do women have less tolerance for chronic obstacles than the men?

  • Women leave because of impossible values stretch: the difference between the beliefs and behaviors central to their being versus those endorsed by leaders in their organization and chronically interfere with their vision of quality and career growth.
  • Women come to work already overextended. Millennial women report that while they anticipated equal career consideration at home, they are being impacted by the historical imbalance of family responsibilities, the harsh realities of the 24/7 workplace and inadequate resources needed to accomplish company goals.
  • Women see differently than men do. Research shows that one of the reasons more female leaders adds corporate value is their attention to the bigger picture and to process.  Women see chronic issues driving no win situations.

While diversity and inclusion have been on the corporate dockets for more than 25 years now, gender intelligence has left the building.  Women, particularly millennials, report that contrary to the facts not only do they believe gender bias is not the issue in engineering cultures, they don’t even want it brought up lest they be painted with a brush of victim mentality.  This flies in the face of the facts, particularly in male-dominated fields.  The newer name for sexism is Second Generation Bias, the subtle, almost invisible systemic barriers fostered by the culture that inadvertently benefit men.

Engineering leaders need to bring gender intelligence back to the diversity table.  Women are not the same as men.  The sooner they realize this, the better.

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