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.
Nearly 80% of men said having children did not change their colleagues’ perceptions of their work commitment or competence; only 55% of women did.
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.”
"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%).
I have been given the advancement opportunities and promotions I deserve (62% women engineers vs. 71% white men).
I have had as much access to formal or informal networking opportunities as my colleagues (67% women engineers vs. 84% white men).
As compared to my colleagues, I work more but get paid less (40% women engineers vs. 29% white men).
“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.
Engineers of color (49%) were less likely than white men (67%) to say they could behave assertively.
Engineers of color (39%) were more likely than white men (16%) to report pressure to let others take the lead.
Engineers of color (52%) were more likely than white men (26%) to report pressure to do office housework.
Engineers of color (55%) were less likely than white men (85%) to report having the same access to desirable assignments.
“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
As compared to my colleagues, I work more but get paid less (48% engineers of color vs. 29% white men).
I feel I get less honest feedback on my performance than my colleagues (35% engineers of color vs. 20% white men).
I have been given the advancement opportunities and promotions I deserve (53% engineers of color vs. 71% white men).
I have had as much access to formal or informal networking opportunities as my colleagues (64% engineers of color vs. 84% white men).
"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