SWE Research

In support of our outreach and advocacy efforts, SWE is working to better understand the research that can help us support our mission to help women achieve their full career potential in the engineering profession. SWE has recently undertaken studies to provide insight into workplace experiences and workplace culture, and SWE will continue to conduct studies aimed at improving the rates at which women choose to pursue an engineering degree and stay in the profession. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at research@swe.org.

Diversifying STEM: Student Success and Community College Transfer in Engineering and Computer Science in Texas

Community college students are often excluded from conversations surrounding broadening participation in STEM, particularly in the fields of engineering and computer science (ECS). The Society of Women Engineers conducted a study of ECS transfer students in Texas to understand the success of women and minority students on this pathway towards a baccalaureate degree. The findings suggest that greater attention to this pathway could make a significant impact on our ability to diversify the engineering profession.

Fill out the form to access the full report.

In this podcast, Dr. Roberta Rincon, SWE’s Research Manager, talks about a new report on community college transfer students with FY18 SWE President Jonna Gerken.

Learn more about this topic.

Minority Women in Early Career: A SWE/NSBE Collaborative Study

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) collaborated on a qualitative research study to understand the experiences of minority women in the early stage of their engineering career. Only 6 percent of engineering bachelor’s degrees are earned by minority women (African American, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American/Alaska Native), and many who earn their degrees commonly encounter challenges in the workplace associated with implicit bias – in hiring, compensation, and performance evaluations. SWE and NSBE sought to understand the challenges minority female engineers in early career face, the strategies they use to overcome those challenges, and the supports that professional engineering organizations provide that are most impactful.

Read the paper presented at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in June 2017 sharing preliminary findings.

2017 White Paper: An Intervention Strategy to Re-engage Women Engineers in the Workforce

Without intervention strategies, the current demand for technical talent combined with the projected increase in the need for engineers will result in a significant shortage of skilled labor throughout the United States engineering industry. Increasing the persistence of women in engineering at all stages of their careers is imperative to solving this talent shortage.

As this white paper illustrates, while more women are graduating with four-year degrees than men, they are underrepresented in the engineering industry – especially within positions at the senior and executive levels. Women are also more likely than men to leave the engineering profession.

In envisioning an intervention strategy to re-engage female engineers who have left the workforce, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and iRelaunch created the STEM Re-entry Task Force.

Through interviews with all active Founding Members of the Task Force, this white paper positions the specific need for re-entry programs within the context of each company while demonstrating the unique advantages received through participation in the program. These interviews also highlight the value proposition of the Task Force, provide key indicators of organizational readiness in starting a re-entry program, and emphasize best practices and lessons learned. The conclusion provides specific recommendations to the engineering and technology sector.

Climate Control: Gender and Racial Bias in Engineering

Research studies indicate that almost 40% of female engineers leave the engineering workforce by midcareer. Implicit or unconscious bias can have a negative impact on the workplace climate, affecting decisions in hiring, promotions, and compensation for women and other underrepresented minorities in engineering, and keeping them from reaching senior-level and leadership positions.

In partnership with the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, SWE conducted a study to understand engineers’ experiences with implicit bias in the workplace. Over 3,000 male and female professionals with at least two years of experience as engineers or engineering technicians participated. The results of the study suggest that workplace climate is tougher for women and people of color as compared with white men.

Check out SWE’s webinars and tools to help you address issues of gender and racial bias in the workplace:

  • Diversity & Inclusion Knowledge Cards: Available through the SWE Store or the SWE Advance App
  • Webinar: Double Jeopardy? How the Experience of Gender Bias Differs for Different Groups of Women
  • Webinar: Give Me the Data: Getting Engineers Talking about Unconscious Bias
  • Webinar: How to Navigate Successfully Through Workplaces Shaped by Subtle Bias

SWE Gender Culture Study

Understanding why women are leaving the engineering profession will inform efforts to increase retention of early- and mid-career professionals, and Organizational culture is a root cause of engagement and attrition, as value gaps can lead to dissatisfaction in the workplace. In other words, what companies say they value is not in line with what engineers are experiencing in the workplace.

Given that female attrition is a top concern, SWE partnered with Beth Michaels, President of Primer Michaels and a leader in culture change, values alignment, and change leadership, to conduct a study to determine how male and female engineers believe that their personal values and desired company culture align with their current company culture. Over 3,200 engineers completed an online survey (49% female, 51% male) in 2015, providing insight into the experiences of both male and female engineers and their workplace cultures.

Findings from the study were released in February 2016. The results can be used to equip senior leaders to lead corporate culture development to engage and retain their best people.

Download highlights from the Society of Women Engineers’ National Gender Culture Study.

Find out more about the results of this study in the April 2016 All Together Blog.