(Written by Stephanie)
When I tell people I started a company specializing in leadership development and training for female engineers, the first question I am often asked is "why women?" The question takes many different forms and comes from all genders. This page was created to address the most common questions and myths about female engineers and Engineers Rising. Don't see your question answered here? Click here to email me. I respond to each email (although you may have to be patient!), and after 5 or more people send a similar question (or ask me in person) it will appear on this page.
isn't engineering career and leadership training the same for women as for men?
Leadership concepts are similar in theory only. In reality, if a woman acts like a man in the exact same situation, she is often punished for going against deeply held societal norms. Multiple studies (please read my book for full citations) been found that men can be both successful and likeable, but a woman is typically viewed as one or the other. A man who aggressively negotiates is viewed favorably, while a woman who does the same is being pushy and "not a team player." Women are often expected to be congenial, do "office housework", and put up with interruptions while speaking, in a way that men are not. Over time, if not actively managed and eliminated where possible, these realities erode a woman's influence, earnings, and career potential. That's why we have developed leadership training specific for female engineers, combining the best of leadership training concepts available with a practical focus on how to navigate the unique and gender-specific challenges women face.
do you have something against men?
I believe strong men are critical partners in achieving an innovative engineering community and fair opportunities for all in engineering. I have mentored young men in addition to young women. Many of my past and current mentors are men. My husband is an engineer. I credit my parents (both scientists) and my grandfather (also an engineer) with where I am today. I have 4 brothers (and 3 sisters). So, no, I have nothing against men and have worked successfully with many who I deeply respect throughout my career.
we don't have women in leadership positions in our firm because we can't find or don't know any suitable female engineers. young women just aren't interested in engineering. this is a pipeline problem that we can't do anything about.
Although there are still less women than men going into engineering and STEM fields in general, that doesn't explain the massive attrition rates of female engineers once they are in the industry. 1 in 4 are dropping out after age 30. Only 1 in 10 men are doing the same. That's years of college costs and career training lost. The top 50 engineering schools currently award degrees to approximately 20% of women per year, yet we are hard-pressed to find many engineering firms with a similar distribution at all levels, particularly at the top. Attrition in most industries (including engineering) is most often related to lack of employee engagement. Employee disengagement is complex, but can be caused by things such as lack of career support, mentorship, advancement opportunities, and consideration of life outside of work. These things affect women disproportionally in male-dominated industries unless firms actively address them. Firms with good business sense address these head-on and proactively expand their networks beyond what may be "comfortable", thus attracting a more diverse (and by extension more innovative and profitable) staff.