Women Fleeing Science, Tech Fields

Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com

Women make up nearly half of college students in these fields, but a third of them feel stalled after graduation.

The talent pipeline of female workers in science, engineering and technology fields is on the rise, yet many women – faced with hostile work environments, extreme work pressures and isolation – are fleeing these in-demand fields in droves.

That’s according to “Athena 2.0,” a new report by the Center for Talent Innovation, which surveyed women in science, engineering and technology (SET) fields in the U.S., Brazil, China and India, and found that while women make up nearly 50 percent of SET college graduates in every nation, roughly one-third of them say they feel stalled and are likely to not only quit their jobs within one year but to leave their respective SET field entirely.  

“There’s unique challenges that women in different industries face,” Tara Gonsalves, a senior research associate at the Center for Talent Innovation, told Wired Workplace. “Women in science are struggling against the lab coat culture, women in engineering are facing the hard hat culture and women in technology are facing the geeky, late-night hacking culture.”

In the United States specifically, the majority (80 percent) of women love their work, yet many feel excluded from male-dominated “buddy networks” and lack female role models. Most SET women (86 percent) in the U.S. also lack sponsors or mentors, and nearly half (46 percent) believe senior managers more readily see men as leadership material.

In addition, many SET women in the U.S. (54 percent) say they are eager to get to the top of their organizations, yet nearly one-quarter (23 percent) feel a women could never get a top position at their company. U.S. respondents also felt their leadership does not endorse (62 percent) or implement (75 percent) ideas from SET women.

As women have been touted as a key solution to the talent gap in SET fields, it is critical that organizations not only maximize on the increasing number of women graduating with SET degrees, but also make greater efforts to retain these women and their unique contributions to SET fields.  

Above all, the report recommended that organizations provide more sponsorship opportunities to women to help them improve their chances of being perceived as leadership material. Organizations also should embrace a “speak-up culture” where women are fully engaged and free to have their ideas heard, the report states.

“In some ways, this should be a huge opportunity for women in SET because there are these huge demands because of the developments in the industry and a shrinking immigrant labor pool,” Gonsalves said. “In reality, there should be huge opportunities for women in the U.S. and around the world. It’s something that organizations need to take seriously right now, as they’re losing critical talent.” 

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(Image via Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com)