The Dearth of Women in Sciences? Let’s Keep Talking About It!

With women accounting for just 12% of engineers in the US, gender equality has become a burgeoning topic in tech.

With women accounting for just 12% of engineers in the US, gender equality has become a burgeoning topic in tech. So much so, in fact, that a Women in Engineering panel at 7:30 a.m. on the second day of the Embedded Systems Conference , was to a full room.

“As a society we’re doing something wrong here. It’s just not right,” said panelist Alpana Kaulgud , a senior director of Architecture at ARM. Women are simply not graduating in high enough numbers from engineering school, “and of the percentage that actually graduate and join an organization that is very male heavy, over time, either because of other priorities, or feeling isolated, or some mismatch, women do drop out,” explained Kaulgud, adding that the problem is a two-pronged one; how to get more women to graduate with an engineering degree and how to get them to stay in engineering.

Women, engineering, glass ceiling, ESC, Embedded Systems Conference

Jessica Gomez, founder & CEO of Rogue Valley Microdevices said women’s underrepresentation in engineering is a multifaceted problem which often starts when girls are very young, but also has to do with how women think and feel about work. “We want to do something important. We want to do something that contributes to the world around us, for our community, something that’s creative. Oftentimes, engineering just doesn’t present itself in that way,” she said, noting that it is mainly an awareness issue. “Sometimes it’s hard for girls to make that leap to see engineering as being able to do really important things in the world, like in world health issues or the environment, and make a substantial amount of money doing it, too.”

Heather Andrus, general manager at Radius Innovation Studio noted that she tried exceptionally hard to raise her girls in as gender-neutral an environment as possible, but that peer pressure from friends still plays a big role. “It’s just not cool. It’s not something they can talk about with their friends,” she said, adding that her family had found a workaround by sending her daughters to all-girls tech summer camp, Alexa Cafe , which takes the things young girls often care about and ties it to technology, creating an ecosystem where their interests are supported.

“Spend time with your kids and teach them how to do things,” added Gomez. “How are things made? Even learning how to do things like sewing, or making cookies. Making anything. All those things are fun. And what makes a great engineer? Creativity. We are lacking that in our schools. Tactile experience is really important.”

“It’s only recently have we started having these conversations out in broad daylight,” said Lisa Fetterman, founder & CEO of Nomiku, noting that this in itself is huge progress. “I don’t think I can go anywhere within my network without somebody commenting on the dearth of women in sciences, and I say, ‘hell yeah, keep talking about that, that’s great!’ It tends to make some of my other girlfriends in the field pretty … sad. And you know what? It is sad. But you have to swallow sadness and then use it.”

Kaulgud believes


At least Jessica Gomez has approached this subject with a degree of common sense. A woman that chooses to have children is not going to be available the same hours men would. Case in point: in the early 90's I went to work at 8am and got home from job #2 at 11 pm. So the left's blind obsession with simply comparing paychecks does not tell the entire story. Of course we can't fix stupid, one woman told me it was 'unfair' that men worked longer hours!

Steve, Way to start out the discussion on a insulting note. The "left's" concern about equal pay is not a blind obsession. People on all sides of the political spectrum believe that people should be paid equally for doing the same job. If you do not see that this is a gender issue, than you are the one that is "blind."

No one should be allowed to work long hours because they will be less productive and therefore cost more than hiring more people.

Your assumption is all men work longer hours than women with nothing to back it up. Men also drink more than women, and they come to work drunk more than women. Women can also endure more monotonous work than men. Men take equal time off to take care of kids. Professional women can pick the best men because of male/female ratio. Men of professional women are typically very involved with the family. All in all, men and women pull equal weight in the professional world.

Everyone is so busy arguing over issues which assume there is some morally correct distribution of genders in professions but I don't know why this should be so. Equality of political power and equality of opportunity are important goals but if our only measure of the success of these implementations are equality of outcome then we should stop pretending it's about anything but forced outcomes and that all "discussion" about these issues is really just propaganda.

I disagree because a lack of gender equality is an indicator of excessively aggressive, hostile, and uncooperative working conditions, that are always less productive as well.

Excessive when compared to what? What's the correct number of women in education? Women in engineering will have to come from somewhere, they don't just spring out fully formed from under rocks. They'll be lured away from other industries. So the natural question is similar: why do we have "too many" women in education? No one phrases it like that because this is all propaganda, but it is the same question.

Not unreasonable to expect equality of opportunity equals equality of outcome. If Silicon valley is all white males, we should be asking these questions. This is not propaganda. There is a serious problem.

Who is presumed to benefit from more women in engineering? There are currently lots of opportunities for women in engineering, and lots of encouragement for them to choose the profession. I encouraged both my daughter and niece to pursue engineering careers, but neither were interested. This "problem" of insufficient female representation seems to spring from some arbitrary idea of the way things should be, rather than from a problem that is actually causing harm.


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