Looking at the State of Women in Engineering

Anne Perusek, director of editorial & publications, shares her opening thoughts on the third State of Women in Engineering special issue of SWE Magazine.
Video: Half of Women in Engineering Schools Experience Sexual Harassment

Written by Anne Perusek, Director of Editorial & Publications


Looking at the State of Women in Engineering
Anne Perusek

This marks our 17th annual review of the social science literature on women in engineering, and the third State of Women in Engineering special issue of SWE Magazine. The literature review is integral to the magazine and to arriving at clarity on the issues surrounding women in engineering, as well as other STEM fields, such as computer science and the physical sciences, where women are underrepresented.

This effort to examine what the research tells us has brought fruitful results and insights. Over time, we see that some consensus has emerged in certain areas, while disagreement and new research questions have been posed in others. We now know, for example, that math preparedness is not what prevents young women from entering or staying in engineering programs, as achievement gaps in math and science have closed. We also know that the perceived cultures of engineering and the tech sector — as being unwelcoming, male based, rigid, etc. — may contribute to many capable young women taking their talents elsewhere. For a grasp of the spectrum of research questions, study results, and their policy implications, I encourage you to engage with this year’s installment. See a compilation of all our reviews to date.

Inspiration for this year’s State of Women in Engineering issue was also found in discussions that took place during SWE’s annual conference, held last fall in Minneapolis. Those discussions covered many of today’s pressing topics in education, the workplace, and society overall. Taking into consideration both recent headlines and personal anecdotes, we were compelled to ask a number of questions about social change, human behavior, intentional and unconscious bias, and related matters. Our cover story, “What Motivates Men to Champion Gender Diversity?” and the companion piece reviewing the peer-reviewed literature on male allies, as well as the feature story, “What Research Tells Us About Diversity Training,” are tied together. They are our formal, research-based response to these discussions/questions.

Also in this issue, we report on results from SWE’s first overseas study, “Gender Bias in India,” which represents a unique examination of the real-world experiences of working engineers in India.

And lastly, we provide an update to the Department of Education’s proposed changes to Title IX, the groundbreaking law that ensures protection against sex discrimination in education. See our story, “Title IX Still on the Brink,” to learn what is at stake.

The State of Women in Engineering issue represents a key element of SWE’s mission to support women as engineers and leaders, and to demonstrate the value of a diverse workforce. We hope readers will join us in this effort.