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A new study by the Society of Women Engineers reveals specific gender and racial bias within the engineering profession. It uncovers a wealth of first-hand information about how implicit bias affects workers in engineering.

Large Gender Gaps Were Reported for Three Patterns of Bias

Prove it Again

61% of women vs. 35% of white men reported they have to prove themselves repeatedly to get the same levels of respect and recognition as their colleagues.

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Difference : Shows Prove it Again Bias

Maternal Wall

Nearly 80% of men said having children did not change their colleagues’ perceptions of their work commitment or competence; only 55% of women did.

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Difference : Shows Maternal Wall Bias

Tightrope

Women engineers (51%) were less likely than white men (67%) to say they could behave assertively. Women often walk a tightrope, navigating both pressures to behave in feminine ways and pushback for behavior seen as “too masculine.”

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Difference : Shows Tightrope Bias

"The most surprising thing about the study was the flood of comments we received at the end of the survey," said Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law and Founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law. "Our findings confirmed decades of research and allowed us to examine whether what’s been reported in social psychology labs goes on in actual workplaces. Often it does."

Women (65%) were less likely to report having the same access to desirable assignments than white men (85%).

Advancement Opportunities

I have been given the advancement opportunities and promotions I deserve (62% women engineers vs. 71% white men).

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Less Advancement Opportunities

Networking

I have had as much access to formal or informal networking opportunities as my colleagues (67% women engineers vs. 84% white men).

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Less Networking Opportunities

Work More

As compared to my colleagues, I work more but get paid less (40% women engineers vs. 29% white men).

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More Women Report Pay Issue

“This new manager told me directly that I would not ‘want’ a promotion because it requires more responsibility and I am a mom so I wouldn’t want to travel.”

- Female Aerospace Engineer

Large Racial Gaps Were Reported

Prove-It-Again: 68% of engineers of color (men as well as women) reported having to prove themselves repeatedly, as compared to 35% of white men.

Behavior

Engineers of color (49%) were less likely than white men (67%) to say they could behave assertively.

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Difference : Shows Bias

Pressure

Engineers of color (39%) were more likely than white men (16%) to report pressure to let others take the lead.

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Difference : Shows Bias

Housework

Engineers of color (52%) were more likely than white men (26%) to report pressure to do office housework.

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Difference : Shows Bias

Assignments

Engineers of color (55%) were less likely than white men (85%) to report having the same access to desirable assignments.

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Difference : Shows Bias

“I raised my voice during a meeting and I was reprimanded for getting emotional. But two male leaders….get into a yelling match in the same meeting and it’s no big deal.”

- Hispanic Female Chemical Engineer

Large Racial Gaps Were Reported

Work More

As compared to my colleagues, I work more but get paid less (48% engineers of color vs. 29% white men).

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Difference : Shows Bias

Feedback

I feel I get less honest feedback on my performance than my colleagues (35% engineers of color vs. 20% white men).

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Difference : Shows Bias

Promotions

I have been given the advancement opportunities and promotions I deserve (53% engineers of color vs. 71% white men).

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Difference : Shows Bias

Networking

I have had as much access to formal or informal networking opportunities as my colleagues (64% engineers of color vs. 84% white men).

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Difference : Shows Bias

"I truly get frustrated when I read all the articles in the magazines and the newspapers about the need for more programs and funds to encourage/entice girls/women to go into STEM fields. Sure, that would help but what is the point if we still encounter a hostile work environment?"

- Asian-American Female Aerospace Engineer

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For more information visit research.swe.org