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E&T magazine - Debate - Women in engineering
A career in engineering is there for women if they want it

For
A career in engineering is there for the taking for those women who want it.

Against
A career in engineering isn't there for the taking for those women who want it.

The argument for
I believe there's a rosy future for women in engineering. And the reason for this comes from looking at the influence women already have in the industry. It's important to realise that women bring a different perspective to engineering than men. Half of the UK population is made up of women. So if we say we need more engineers, then what better place to start from? And so taking on more women is a thing that has to happen and is already happening. There are all kinds of industry bodies doing good things to encourage more girls, and you see more women coming forward in presenting engineering to young people. It's a myth that it is not as easy for women as it is men to join the engineering community. I have never experienced discrimination on the basis of being a woman.

The argument against
One of my challenges is to reach out and say to women that the world of technology is a world you need to be part of. If you look at the boards of big technology companies they're underpopulated by women. If you look at girls in schools, the proportion interested in science and technology is low compared with boys. Positive discrimination is not acceptable, unless there are exceptional circumstances. When companies say that they are unable to find suitable women to sit on a board of directors that is not acceptable. I don't particularly want to win 'women only' prizes and I hate it when people suggest we should give a prize for the best paper written by a woman. I want to win the prize for the best paper. I believe in spotlighting good women to show that it is possible to find role models or board members. But I look around the university where I work and we have so few women doing technology courses. We're still not encouraging them to do degrees in these subjects.
 
23 Replies
Andy Millar
1730 Posts
On the whole I totally agree with Wendy Hall's arguments, but I think if anything she seems to me to be arguing FOR the proposition: she doesn't seem to be saying that there aren't careers for women (which is the question), just that they do not feel that they are in a position to take advantage of them, or aren't being encouraged to do so.

If the question was "are there barriers for women taking up a career in engineering (in the UK)" then of course there are, but "can a determined woman take up a career in engineering?" - certainly they can and do.

P.S. Is it just my perception, or is the UK particularly backward in this respect? I get the impression that in much of mainland Europe and N. America (at least) this would be seen as a very odd question. But maybe I'm just putting on my rose tinited glasses when I travel abroad...
William White
227 Posts
Originally posted by: amillar
P.S. Is it just my perception, or is the UK particularly backward in this respect?quote>


As has been said many times in this debate, the route into "engineering" in the UK is often via apprenticeship, craft training, years on the tools, ONC, HNC, BEng etc, which is not always the case abroad.

I would not say this is backward - depending on the engineering role, it is best practice. The boss at my previous employment started as a labourer on the gangs; then jointer's mate, then jointer, then foreman, then did his schooling, eventually earning an MBA with the OU. He is now director of engineering services at a DNO.



Maybe craft apprenticeships and the banter, horseplay etc of working "on the tools" stuck in a muddy joint hole, freezing cold at 2am, or covered in oil in a dirty factory is not always attractive to women?


Originally posted by: jpwilsonIt's important to realise that women bring a different perspective to engineering than men.quote>


That is interesting, because it was brought in into the argument, then dropped...

I say it is interesting, because the comment co-incided with Radio 4 documentary about female appeal judges. As you can guess, there are not many female appeal judges, and one of the arguments for more was that women bring a different perspective.

This was studied. Law students were asked to determine what rulings and judgements were made by women and what judgements were made by men, based on supposed different perspectives that a female judge might (or might not) bring to the case. The students were correct 49% of the time, and incorrect 51% of the time. They would have been better flipping a coin.

Now, engineering is a much more mechanical process than Law, with less interpretation (you can argue about semantics, but you can't argue with the laws of physics); so I am wondering what this different perspective to engineering is?



I ask this in all seriousness - because it is very easy to use platitudes, but does the claim hold up to scientific scrutiny - I would be very intrigued to see what real and tangible different perspectives women can bring to engineering specifically.



Regarding positive discrimination. We already have it in Britain. It is called the old-boys network. Jobs for the boys. The old school tie.

Whenever people baulk at postive discrimination I ask them to think about why the faces and voices in the top echelons in Britain are all so alike.

So, yes, bring on a better positive discrimination, because the version we have is a disgrace.

cheers
W
I believe thqt this ages-old discussion is wrong on many counts but mainly in that the debaters insist that men and women start on equal terms. THEY DO NOT.

If I had lo make a straight choice between working for a man or for a woman then, all else being equal, I would opt for the womqn as my Boss.

For centuries woman have been assigned to minor roles when in fact it has always been women who kept the wheels turring - who have kept the home-fires burning - while their menfolk went off to those silliest games on earth - the pursuit of g(l)ory by killing each other.

When girls grow up playing with dolls they are learning the basics of running a home - men learn how to destroy homes. Women do not fear to make decisions because they understand that a wrong turn can be corrected; men, afraid of losing face, would rather dodge the blame by forming a committee.

Ken Green
Andy Millar
1730 Posts
Originally posted by: Zuiko
Originally posted by: amillar
P.S. Is it just my perception, or is the UK particularly backward in this respect?quote>

[...] I would not say this is backward - depending on the engineering role, it is best practice.quote>

I don't think you really meant to suggest that having fewer women entering the profession was best practice! Maybe I should have been clearer.
Andy Millar
1730 Posts
Originally posted by: Zuiko
I ask this in all seriousness - because it is very easy to use platitudes, but does the claim hold up to scientific scrutiny - I would be very intrigued to see what real and tangible different perspectives women can bring to engineering specifically.quote>

My (female) psychology tutor went to great pains to point out that although many studies have shown statistical differences between various male and female thought processes, the variations across the range within each sex have (as far as I know) always been found to be far greater. (Discounting gender influences of different upbringing.)

So what can women bring to engineering? More engineers! Who will have the full and glorious range of competences and incompetences that the men have.

(Ken: If you think growing up playing with dolls teaches you how to run a home, then you should see my 17 year old daughter's bedroom face-icon-small-smile.gif )
Hi All,

You may be interested in the following webcast, which is about to start in 15 mins.

Women Engineers: Building a Bright Future

20 June 2013 | Starting at 12pm BST

What is it like to be a woman in the engineering profession? Do young girls see engineering as an attractive career path? What about women returning to work after a career break?

On 20 June, past and present winners of the IET's Young Woman Engineer of the Year awards will come together to discuss the issues faced by female engineers in 2013.

Panel:

The panel will feature Dawn Fitt (Young Woman Engineer of the Year 1992), Jessica Jones (Intel Inspirational Award for Entrepreneurship 2012), Charlotte Tingley (Women's Engineering Society Prize 2012) and Sally Walters (Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2009).

Participate live:

Questions and comments for the panel will be accepted on the day from a live chat room or Twitter (#ietwebcast).

Submit questions in advance:

If you're not available to participate live on the day, you can pre-submit questions to Twitter (#ietwebcast), or via email to myvoice@theiet.org.

Best wishes

Linda
Phil Weston
629 Posts
Personally I think all careers should be open to both genders unless of course there are proper reasons where they cannot be. However, as we can see from some cases where woman are head of a country (Brasil) or else head of a regulating body (QCC) or else a department (UKBA), past or present, they are not neccessarily better or worse than their male counterparts. I would prefer always to see the best person for the job rather than try to socially engineer society such that it becomes biased more towards one gender than the other, in any particular job. Having careers open to both genders would, in my opinion, give a better chance of getting the best person for the job.

I think the debate for women in engineering is long since over and we should just encourage it in a sensible way. One thing that does interest me is this argument about having to pay the top salary to get the best people.....as we can all see from many recent events, there have been many people, men and women, on top salaries who have clearly not been top people and also who have not really been held to account for their sometimes dreadful management. In addition to this not a whole lot is then said about those who appointed these people. I think top people should be paid good salaries but I do not believe a top salary has to be paid to get top people because its more about the person, as to whether they are good or not, and less about the salary. I think the top salary for top people argument has just been an excuse for people to pay others excessive salaries so they themselves could also receive an excessive salary, and so on.

Regards.
Phil Weston
629 Posts
Originally posted by: kengreen
If I had lo make a straight choice between working for a man or for a woman then, all else being equal, I would opt for the womqn as my Boss.quote>

If all else was equal I would flip a coin.
For centuries woman have been assigned to minor roles when in fact it has always been women who kept the wheels turring - who have kept the home-fires burning - while their menfolk went off to those silliest games on earth - the pursuit of g(l)ory by killing each other.quote>

If we look to history there have been plenty of women who headed up countries and so that proves it was always possible for them to rise to the top. In addition to this, and as far as I know, no man has yet given birth to a baby, and so there are natural reasons why women took some of the roles they did. I do not think women are weak, or ever have been, and instead I think each gender has just arrived in a period in time where it looks at other areas and decides it wants to try this and that. This is positive.
When girls grow up playing with dolls they are learning the basics of running a home - men learn how to destroy homes. Women do not fear to make decisions because they understand that a wrong turn can be corrected; men, afraid of losing face, would rather dodge the blame by forming a committee.quote>

There are many ways to run a home or else destroy it and I do not think either are, or have been, confined to one gender.

Regards.
westonpa,

'Tis my belief thqt you very nearly hi the proverbial nail on the proverbial head when you used the word "appointed" except that those totally unsuited to any kind offace-icon-small-tongue.gifost, who get there by joining a Lodge, prefer to call it an " allocation." The system is sometimes referred to as "the Old School Tie" which gives an element of respectability to those utterly committed to fear of the feminine.

Regrettably it is my experience that the system runs amok in the engineering profession.

K3en Green
As both my wife and I are Chartered Engineers (I'm IET and she is IMechE) it's a topic that has been discussed numerous times over the dinner table.

A couple of our thoughts

If anything my wife finds all the extra special 'female' only engineering aspect to be insulting. Why should there be a Woman Engineer of the Year? Is there a Man Engineer of the Year too? There is, we notice, a Female engineers event that took place a week or two ago. Can we ask when the the Male Engineers event happening? My wife's view is very much if she is awarded something she wants it too be because she is the best, or has designed the best. Not best she is the best female, but the best. With the female awards she feels that they are insulting, basically saying that 'you're female, and therefore not good enough to compete against the men, so you have this special award'

This leads to a concern that my wife has that in order to increase the number of women within the management of engineering, we run the risk that women could be promotion for political reasons, and not because they are the best person for the role. Again rather than talking about the lack of women within engineering management, how do we ensure that those in engineering management can actually do their jobs. So many projects we've worked on where it has been clear that a good engineer has been promoted into management (as that is how you progress your career) but actually as a manager they aren't any good. Lets get the best we can for the role.

Also, we are assuming here that men and women are fundamentally the same when it comes to what interests them.

Please note that all of the above is from both my wife and I discussing this. I value a female engineer as much as I do a male one.

Maybe we should all be trying to encourage more people into engineering regardless of them being male or female. There are some great engineers out there, both male and female. Maybe we need to promote them in the media, so they gain fame for their achievements. Rather than leaving it to X-Factor, Britain Might Have Some Talent etc, to provide the role models for the next generation.

Are we trying to achieve a given ratio of male/female engineers that is just never going to happen?

By the way, I wonder what the male/female ratio of mid-husbands to mid-wives are? Maybe they should be encouraging more men into that :-)
As a retired engineer, but now working in primary schools, I agree with Dame Wendy Hall.

The key issue is how to change the situation for the better. In my experience that is to promote STEM and a general interest in science and maths from 5 or 6 years old. I believe children are very receptive, and indeed are searching for knowledge about science, maths and computing. Unfortunately most curricula seem intent on boring young children, and stifling that nascent interest.
Andy Millar
1730 Posts
Originally posted by: drumbold
By the way, I wonder what the male/female ratio of mid-husbands to mid-wives are? Maybe they should be encouraging more men into that :-)quote>

What an odd comparison - to pick one of the incredibly few careers where there are good reasons for a gender imbalance. Fortunately engineering very rarely requires sympathy, discretion and understanding of our customers' squishy bits. I am perfectly happy for a female engineer to enquire into the deeper workings of my PC without feeling embarrassed!
Originally posted by: amillar

Originally posted by: drumbold

By the way, I wonder what the male/female ratio of mid-husbands to mid-wives are? Maybe they should be encouraging more men into that :-)quote>


What an odd comparison - to pick one of the incredibly few careers where there are good reasons for a gender imbalance. Fortunately engineering very rarely requires sympathy, discretion and understanding of our customers' squishy bits. I am perfectly happy for a female engineer to enquire into the deeper workings of my PC without feeling embarrassed!quote>


Andy, why do you feel this is an odd comparison? By your very answer you are picking out aspects that differentiate men and women. And why women have certain aspects that make them, in your view, better for a particular role. Surely being a good doctor also requires sympathy, discretion and understanding their customers' squishy bits. Yet we don't view all female doctors as being better. The talk of being embarrassed, no-one seemed that worried when all the GP's at my local surgery were all female.

The point I was trying to make is that in some jobs, we seem happy to have a gender imbalance. Yet in others, when there may will be a valid reason that no-one will admit to, we will put lots of resource into trying to ensure no gender balance.

Nursing, primary school teaching are all roles that are predominantly held by women, yet I see no evidence for anyone really trying to change that.

I spend a lot of time with Scouts (both boys and girls) and we give them the same chance at everything. Generally the girls are just not interested in how things work, as where the boys are.

Maybe there is something in the difference between male and female that means that in my experience, often females are more interested in people and males are more interested in things. Yet no-one will say this.

I await to get into lots of trouble for that last paragraph.

Please note once again, I'm in no way against female engineers - I'm married to one. I sometimes just wonder if all the money, time and resource we are putting into getting more females into engineering would be better put towards improving the status of engineers and encouraging more people into engineering (be them male or female)
Andy Millar
1730 Posts
Originally posted by: drumbold
Andy, why do you feel this is an odd comparison? By your very answer you are picking out aspects that differentiate men and women. And why women have certain aspects that make them, in your view, better for a particular role. Surely being a good doctor also requires sympathy, discretion and understanding their customers' squishy bits. Yet we don't view all female doctors as being better. The talk of being embarrassed, no-one seemed that worried when all the GP's at my local surgery were all female. quote>

I thought about that quite heavily before posting my reply. Our surgery gives the option of choice. And I hope you didn't think my reply said that men don't have sympathy and discretion, but in deeply personal areas surely you would agree that it can be easier for men to sypmathise with men, and women with women? Anyway, I'm not carrying on with this since my whole point is that it is irrelevant to engineering.

The point I was trying to make is that in some jobs, we seem happy to have a gender imbalance. Yet in others, when there may will be a valid reason that no-one will admit to, we will put lots of resource into trying to ensure no gender balance.

Nursing, primary school teaching are all roles that are predominantly held by women, yet I see no evidence for anyone really trying to change that. quote>

On the contrary, as an ex-primary scvhool governor of many years standing there is a huge effort being put into this, for good and well-researched reasons.


I spend a lot of time with Scouts (both boys and girls) and we give them the same chance at everything. Generally the girls are just not interested in how things work, as where the boys are.quote>

I ran a primary school engineering club for many years. 50:50 boys:girls. I also ran a huge number of in class activities, same story. Up until the age of 11 there is no difference in interest (and again this is not just my experience, there is excellent research in this). After that we have major social issues in our expectation of behaviour from boys and girls, which takes us back to both statements published in E&T.

Maybe there is something in the difference between male and female that means that in my experience, often females are more interested in people and males are more interested in things. Yet no-one will say this.

I await to get into lots of trouble for that last paragraph. quote>

Actually, again there are mountains of reearch on this issue, so you can hardly say "no-one will say this". You may find some reading on societal pressures on gender stereotyping interesting. Tell someone they're not interested in engineering enough and they'll believe you! Anyway, anyone who has worked in other European countries and seen some rather different ratios there knows this is just a silly view, unless you are suggesting the British women's brains are somehow different from those in mainland Europe? (Oh Gawd, I wish I hadn't even suggested that as an idea...)

Please note once again, I'm in no way against female engineers - I'm married to one. I sometimes just wonder if all the money, time and resource we are putting into getting more females into engineering would be better put towards improving the status of engineers and encouraging more people into engineering (be them male or female)quote>

Does that sound at all to you like "some of my best friends are gay/black/Muslim"face-icon-small-happy.gif? Anyway, I'm sure the 3/6 (17.5p in new money) we're spending on this is well spent. I don't think you need worry too much, the amount actually being spent really is trivial - and in fact it's impressive given how little is being spent how widely this issue is being discussed, which I guess means the spending is working!


I think you may have neatly encapsulated a key reason as to why there are so few women in engineering, would anyone really want to work with people who are predisposed to believe they are less capable - whatever the evidence? Of course your views are not unique, a huge percentage of the UK male engineering population, perhaps the majority, believe - however bizarrely - that women are genetically incapable of engineering (or driving, or reading maps, or any other prejudice du jour).

Incidentally, I also get really fed up when women say that men can't cook, care for children, or work co-operatively. Sorry, been there, done that, got the T-shirt. It's equally lazy thinking - and untrue.

Of course there are ways in which men and women are different, but I'm pretty sure the forum rules ban discussions of those topics face-icon-small-wink.gif Shame, because they're much more fun...
I totally agree with you in that as this issue is being discussed means that engineering is being discussed in general. Which in my book is a good thing. However, we I believe need to encourage more people into engineering. Most of my Scouts (aged 11-14) have no idea what engineering is, yet in school there are special events for the girls for STEM activities - why not the boys? I do my best to encourage them all to think about engineering, and a large part of Scouting skills you could well say is practical engineering, building shelters from natural materials on camp, building rafts, and other various challenges we will give them.

I know I said that from my experience that often females are more interested in people and males in things, but in no-way do I believe or state that they are genetically incapable. I don't believe that anymore than the 'men can't cook' that you go on to state later (why are most the chefs on TV men? I'll leave that for another discussion face-icon-small-wink.gif )

As an aside, my wife can't read a map to save her life, but then neither can her father - therefore that I think could be genetic, but maybe just to them face-icon-small-happy.gif

I believe we could discuss women v men in engineering till the cows come home, the fact as we are discussing this is good. But we are on an engineering forum, and this discussion was in an engineering magazine. It would be much better to read about this in the newspapers and hear about it frequently in the mainstream media. That said it might help if the mainstream media knew the difference between a Technician and an Engineer.

Going back to the actual topic, "A career in engineering is there for women if they want it?"

The against argument seems to highlight the lack of women on the boards (and/or) in senior management positions. My understanding is that this is common to many industries and large companies, and not just engineering. Is engineering worst than average? I don't know.

From my own experience (and again I can only really comment on my experience) the higher up a company you progress the more that is expected from you.

I see those senior to me spending more and more hours at work, more travelling for meetings/events and evening/weekend working. Maybe actually the women are the clever ones and have realised that there is far more to life than being a slave to the corporation, spending large amounts of time away from home, and having little life outside of the office. It's a thought? After all who on their death bed ever wished they'd spent more time in the office?

And yes I'm sure that discussions of other ways in which men and women are different would be much more fun. Oh well back to work.
Andy Millar
1730 Posts
A sideways thought: At my children's secondary school end of year summer concert last night I came across a lovely example of why sometimes you need a bit of positive discrimination (awful phrase), particularly in schools.

Until three years ago there were two boys in the school choir (my son being one of them!). This had been going on for years, because after all "everybody knew" that teenage boys can't sing and don't join choirs. Then the new head of music started a seperate boy's choir. At last night concert there was not only this boys' choir (who were fantastic, and are getting a serious local reputaion), but the main choir now also has a huge boys' section (and was equally fantastic). The idea of "being in a choir" just had to made to have the right image.

What this teacher had overcome was the fact that in teenage and "tweenage" years there is huge social pressure to conform to, basically, 1950s stereotypes. It's rubbish (and rather bizarre) of course, but equally it's no good ignoring it. Sadly it does seem to take minor bits of social engineering to get round it.

I was also thinking, we do need to remember how quickly the world has changed. When my mother was born in 1916 women in the UK had no rights to vote or hold even the most minor of public office, in fact to work at all once they were married, and it was phenomenally difficult for them to get divorced. After all, "everybody knew" their little brains weren't up to these tasks. Given how many of our attitudes we learn from our parents, which limits the amount of change in one or two generations, it is perhaps unsurprising (if disappointing) that some of this feeling still lingers in the engineering world.
Phil Weston
629 Posts
Originally posted by: amillar
I think you may have neatly encapsulated a key reason as to why there are so few women in engineering, would anyone really want to work with people who are predisposed to believe they are less capable - whatever the evidence? Of course your views are not unique, a huge percentage of the UK male engineering population, perhaps the majority, believe - however bizarrely - that women are genetically incapable of engineering (or driving, or reading maps, or any other prejudice du jour).quote>

I do not think the numbers are as huge as you suggest because most reasonable and professional people judge based on the work. The thing is of course that we need to see the women doing good work in order to make that judgement and that will not happen if they are not in engineering. The question is do we socially engineer the situation to help that development or do we just allow it to evolve. I tend to think the efforts to get more women into engineering are more about addressing the 'shortages' in engineers rather than addressing the smaller % of women in the field. Of course it would not be politically correct to state this and so it is sold in different terms. Women give birth, raise families, head countries, fly planes, build bombs, walk miles to get water, fight in wars, etc., and are more than capable of working in the areas in which they want to. They know it and we know it and they do not choose engineering or other fields because they do not want to. When women want they do and they have more control over men than most men would care to admit because most would then feel insecure. We men are only in command when women allow us to be....but I am comfortable with that.

I tend to think many women do not enter the world of engineering because it tends to be a career which is difficult to take a career break from, in order to have children. This can be both from the womens perspective and employers perspective. If we look at, for example, being a midwife, women have more or less being giving birth to babies for quite some time and if you take time off to have and raise a family and then return, hey presto women are still giving birth more or less the same. In engineering take 10 years out and you can be a long way behind and out of date. Engineering tends to be a career in which you need to stay in it to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. Yes of course I can accept we can all give examples which show how all the points I raise can be addressed, so I am not suggesting that women cannot have a successful career in engineering and also have and raise a family.

If we want to get more young people into engineering then there would need to be some additional effort to do so and if we wanted to improve some aspect of engineering again some additional effort would be required to do so, and so I see no issue with the additional effort to encourage women to take up engineering. Men would not be complaining if we made an additional effort to get more men into engineering or if there was additional effort to get more women to be midwives. However I tend to think on the whole women do not choose engineering for reasons which will not be addressed by just encouraging more to take it up in the first place.
Incidentally, I also get really fed up when women say that men can't cook, care for children, or work co-operatively. Sorry, been there, done that, got the T-shirt. It's equally lazy thinking - and untrue.quote>

There are many things I cannot do and women would be technically correct to state that I could not do them. If they would tell me I cannot give birth to a child I do not get fed up because I appreciate that nature made that decision for me. In other areas I have a choice and so if I choose not to cook then that is my choice. When many women say men cannot cook it is not about the cooking and rather it is about those particular women trying to build themselves up by lowering men and they do this because they feel inadequate in themselves. That is more about the person than anything else. If a person tells me men or women cannot do this and that then I realise that the person is not comfortable in their own skin and with who they are, unless of course they are being objective and just stating facts. If we look at many of the worlds top chefs they are men and I think all genders and ages can agree those chefs can cook great food. If the particular women cannot take on board that evidence then their opinion is not of any real value or else they have an issue with themselves. If your wife says you cannot cook then of course that is between you and her. face-icon-small-smile.gif

Regards.
Andy Millar
1730 Posts
Originally posted by: westonpa
If your wife says you cannot cook then of course that is between you and her. .quote>

Funnily enough, she has absolutely no problem with me cooking at all! face-icon-small-smile.gif
In India , there are less girls in the engineering field, if India wants to develop than the women in the Engineering should be..

Like in the UK half population for women and half for men..
I was dismayed to read Dr Nike Faloyan's article, which claims that equal opportunities exist for women in engineering but actually perpetuates the engrained opinions and ideas that act as ideological barriers to women entering the profession.

Dr Faloyan states that women bring a different perspective to men, and it's hard to argue with this, but such generalisations can serve to undermine equality. Consider her statement that you won't find many women who are interested in construction, no matter how hard you argue the case. It might be worth considering that young women aren't interested in construction because they are repeatedly exposed to such opinions. Any young woman reading Dr Faloyan's article is given the clear message, by someone who should be a role model, that she can't possibly be interested in construction simply because she's a woman.

Dr Faloyan suggests that women can be persuaded to find engineering interesting by being made aware of the variety within the profession. But she uses 'repairing things' as an example of something less enticing to women, and 'environmental impact' as an example of something we are interested in. I can attest to the fact that it's precisely the pervasiveness of such antiquated ideas that can put off women who are interested in engineering. I remember specifically cutting one university from my list after I enquired about a taught Masters in electrical power systems and the dean of engineering suggested that, as a woman, I might be more interested in engineering related to environmental issues.

We should not be sending the message that some specialisms are more suited to women. This is not breaking down barriers. It is building barriers, dividing the profession into 'specialisms that women are allowed to be interested in' and 'specialisms that only men are interested in'.

Women, and even more so school-aged girls, should have the message sent to them that any specialism can be interesting to any person, regardless of their gender. Women should be better represented in all engineering disciplines simply because we are 50% of the population and we are just as capable at the profession as men, not more, not less.

I look forward to the day when I can go into work and feel that my gender is irrelevant, but unfortunately there first needs to be a fundamental ideological shift within the engineering profession.
I am writing here in response to Dumbold's post on 1July.

I was reminded of an incident several years ago when, at the suggestion of the then SWEB engineers, I was asked to investigate a problem in a local slate quarry which involved a badly, in fact dangerously, installed very large stone cutting machine. At first I was surprised to find that the foreman in charge was in fact a young woman but I soon had to change my mind by her very practical approach to the problem. She listened carefully to my stated opinion that the installation was unsafe and that the manufacturers should be contacted.

The reply was that it was a second-hand machine for whom the manufacturers will bankrupt.She recommended to her main office that, my suggestion of a new machine installed by the suppliers should be implemented.the suggestion was swiftly accepted and that they lost little in the way of production.

There was no question about the competence of the leadership in that quarry.

Ken green
Andy Millar
1730 Posts
EXCELLENT post ldunsby! Shame there's no "like" facility on these forums...

I get equally frustrated when it's said that men have poorer communication skills, less co-operative abilities, and less compassion than women. Labelling is insidious and it sticks.
Phil Weston
629 Posts
Originally posted by: ldunsby
Consider her statement that you won't find many women who are interested in construction, no matter how hard you argue the case. It might be worth considering that young women aren't interested in construction because they are repeatedly exposed to such opinions.quote>

Have you any evidence to suggest that young women are repeatedly exposed to Dr Faloyan's opinions and that made them chose another career?

Barak Obama and Nelson Mandella were told Black men cannot be president of their respective countries. Margaret Thatcher was told a woman could not be PM.

With regards to the construction industry the reason why there are less women in it goes back centuries and thus the industry has evolved without large numbers of women in it. That in itself creates a mindset whereby the both men and women think it is more of a mans industry and where the industry itself is not set up to easily accomodate women. If a female engineer wants to work in the construction industry then she will be working with a lot of men, who are not engineers, and who will think the women should not be there, for whatever reasons they so chose. If you want equality then surely those opinions are equal to yours and so what is the issue? Amongst engineers women may well be treated as equals but of course engineers have to live in society and thus interface with non engineers. If they are so easily put off choosing a career by the opinions, as you suggest, then they are going to really struggle when they come up against the non engineers who give much stronger opinions. I would suggest that those women engineers who currently work in construction have what it takes to overcome those challenges and change minds and that is what is really required. At the beginning we need 'stronger' women to come into construction engineering because like it or not they will be dealing with some strong opinions. Over time things will change because barriers will be broken down and so at the same time the opinions going to young women will also change and so on.

Barak Obama probably hears racist comments and/or comes up against challenges related to the colour of his skin on a regular basis. However, he was determined enough to not believe the 'Black man cannot be President' comments and seems more than capable of breaking down barriers. The 'Black man cannot be President of the USA' comment has been consigned to history, by the man who instead of complaining about others instead followed his dream.
Any young woman reading Dr Faloyan's article is given the clear message, by someone who should be a role model, that she can't possibly be interested in construction simply because she's a woman.quote>

If I am honest I do not think we can suggest all women are the same. Some young women may see things as a challenge and do it anyway and then be the ones to break down the barriers. I salute them and challenge them because they are the engineers I want working beside me.
I remember specifically cutting one university from my list after I enquired about a taught Masters in electrical power systems and the dean of engineering suggested that, as a woman, I might be more interested in engineering related to environmental issues.quote>


http://news.thomasnet.com/IMT/...omen-engineers/


""Women are drawn to fields where the social relevance is high," said C. Dian Matt, executive director of the Women in Engineering ProActive Network.

A study by Intel asked teenagers of both sexes to read a series of statements about engineering. The teens were then asked if those statements made them more likely or less likely to consider a career in the field. One of the top "more likely" statements for teenage girls was about fixing global social problems, such as bringing clean water solutions to communities in Africa."

Bringing clean water solutions to communities is sort of environmental, well at least it was when I studied it, and so maybe the dean had read some studies/literature which 'suggested' women were more attacted to environmental areas. Maybe not of course! Now as a dean it was his responsibility to suggest all the options, be they positive or negative, so that his students could make an informed choice. Generally when people communicate with us, be that written or verbal, we apply our own filtering and biased opinions, i.e., we close our mind to other possibilities, and make our judgements and that is it. Let us on the other hand say the dean had an opinion that women should not be electrical engineers, for example, then you sort of confirmed his opinion and so he will continue with it. It would have been great if you had done it anyway and helped go someway towards changing his mind, after all a dean is quite influential in that university and then it may have changed its marketing message in order to attact more women. Maybe and maybe not of course.

We should not be sending the message that some specialisms are more suited to women. This is not breaking down barriers. It is building barriers, dividing the profession into 'specialisms that women are allowed to be interested in' and 'specialisms that only men are interested in'.quote>


If we want equality then all opinions are equal and people should send whichever message they want, providing it is legal of course. If however we only want equality as we see it through our own eyes then of course we should then limit the messages to only those which support what we want. I think it is better to give people enough information to make an informed choice rather than just giving them just the information which makes their choice for them. Maybe we should change the message and say historically this profession has been seen as more suited to men but these are the positives and negatives with regards to this profession. The last government led many young people to believe that if they went to get their degree they would be in job utopia, i.e., would have great employment prospects, now it did not really turn out that way after all. Better to educate people on the range of options which are available and the possible positives and negatives and then help them to make an informed choice and which takes into account their own skills, abilities, wants, desires, dreams, etc.

Women should be better represented in all engineering disciplines simply because we are 50% of the population and we are just as capable at the profession as men, not more, not less.

I look forward to the day when I can go into work and feel that my gender is irrelevant, but unfortunately there first needs to be a fundamental ideological shift within the engineering profession.quote>


It requires a fundamental ideological shift in society.

Engineering exists in society and society has evolved to how it is now, of course. We must assume, because we cannot go back in time and then change things around and see how that would have played out, that we have the engrainded opinions, be they from men or women, and the representations that we have because it was the best, but maybe not ideal, way for us humans to get to where we are now. So maybe there were good reasons for it. On the other hand maybe now we are ready for the next step. Those who want to take the next step will need to be able to listen to all the views and then make informed choices. Both genders are strong, creative, intelligent, etc., and have a history of working very well together in whichever areas they so choose to work together.

It pleased me that when Margaret Thatcher recently died and people were either singing her praises as PM or else slating her off they were doing so about the job she did and not because of her gender.

Thank you for giving your opinion in these forums. What I have written is just to give a different perspective and is not intended to negatively challenge your own opinion.

Regards.

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