How to Attract – and Keep – Women in Engineering

Why Inclusion is Good for Business

While more women are graduating with college degrees than men in general, in engineering, that’s not the case. In fact, the number of women earning engineering degrees has been stagnant, staying at less than 20 percent of all degree holders. Not only that, but many women who enter the engineering profession following graduation aren’t staying in the field.

Why does that matter? In episode 7 of The OpEx Webinar, Jonna Gerken, FY17 President of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), explained four reasons diversity is important to organizations:

  • Innovation: To be innovative, a company needs to consider the views of an entire team, and not just the perspective of a homogeneous group of individuals. Otherwise, an organization risks missing out on some great ideas.
  • Retention: A company culture that fails to include women or embrace their perspective is the top reason women leave. To retain talent, a culture that supports diversity is key.
  • Business Performance: High-functioning teams need to include all perspectives. If not, an organization won’t know, for example, whether a part will be made if a manufacturing engineer isn’t included in the design of a component. The same holds true of a women’s input.
  • Financial Performance: By including a variety of people, a company will have an operation that reflects its customers – diverse – so they can make sure the products and services will meet market needs.

So what can companies do to help boost diversity? Jonna suggest a comprehensive approach consisting of four steps:

  • Training and Education: Teaching employees and leadership the value of having diverse people work together effectively is important, whether through training or more formal education. But what’s critical is ingraining the practices in everyday work.
  • Policies: Policies are very impactful to an organization so ensure they aren’t fostering feelings of exclusion. And make sure they’re enforced consistently.
  • Employee Engagement: To understand what a company can do better, employees should be leveraged to understand what needs to be changed, for example, what policies are missing or need to be improved.
  • Role Models: Role models can have a powerful effect on individuals’ future careers so be sure the organization has women in positions that will support the next generation of engineers.


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