General Engineering Attraction and Retention (GEARS)

With the completion of our POWER study that focused on the lived experiences of women working in the field of engineering, a question remained to examine how these experiences compared with their male counterparts. We went back to the National Science Foundation and obtained a grant to examine this key empirical question. Central to this investigation is to both understand the lived experiences of men and then compare those results to results we obtained with women. We contacted participating universities to again launch a second set of surveys to reach male counterparts. Nearly 7,100 men responded to our survey.

We were also concerned with why men and women decided to stay in engineering.  We partnered with professional societies of engineers and launched a survey with a second set of questions aimed at understanding why men and women choose to stay in the profession. Nearly 2,000 respondents participated in this survey.

We are still in the process of analyzing this data for publication. Our early analysis suggests that men and women actually appear to leave engineering at roughly the same rate and endorse the same reasons for leaving. Namely, that there were little opportunities for advancement, perceptions of a lack of a supportive organization, lost interests in the field, and conflicts with supervisors. One key difference between men and women was women wanted to leave the workforce to spend time with family. As we dug deeper into this relationship, we found that these women often attempted to make accommodations at work in order to meet their care-giving responsibilities only to be met with resistance from the work environment.

Please feel free to listen to our radio broadcast on WUWM for more information about our work thus far!

National Science Foundation Award #1136264