February 2017 Digital Issue: Designer’s dilemma Can you have it all? + More

In this issue:

88 MOTION CONTROL: Troubleshooting VFDs 101—with no-power checks
102 Digital Issue: Designer’s dilemma Can you have it all?
108 FASTENING & JOINING: Structural bonding solutions for plastics
114 3D CAD: Design for use


Engineering has diversity problems beyond women

For years, we’ve written about the gender problem in engineering education—why can’t we get more young women to pursue engineering or STEM careers? The percentage of female engineers here in the U.S. hovers somewhere around 20%. That’s not a great number, but at least it is much higher than a generation or two ago.

Paul HeneyBut a recent report by the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering shows another, less talked about diversity issue that is facing engineers in that country: what happens to minority engineers once they do graduate.

The study indicated that, six months after graduating, there were only small differences between male and female engineers in terms of finding a job. And that makes sense, as a slightly higher proportion of men entered full-time employment than women, but a higher proportion of women than men pursued further educational studies.

However, the differences in other areas were disturbing. The Academy found:

• There was a 20 percentage point difference between the proportion of white engineering graduates entering full-time employment (71%) and their black and minority ethnic (BME) counterparts (51%) after 6 months
• Black engineering graduates had the lowest proportion of full time work at 46%
• After six months, 60% of white engineering graduates were employed in engineering occupations, compared with 40% for BME graduates. Again, black graduates had the lowest proportion in engineering employment, at 37%
• Six months after graduation, 14% of black engineering graduates were unemployed, compared with only 7% of white engineering graduates
• These differences were significantly greater for engineering graduates than across all subject areas.

The study also undertook a statistical regression analysis to attempt to understand the relative weighting of various influences during the hiring process, such as grades, school attended, etc. Even when controlling for these other factors, ethnicity still remained as a major characteristic affecting employment decisions in engineering roles.

Here in the U.S., we constantly hear stories decrying a skills gap in manufacturing. And while we have a long way to go in getting more female and minority kids into engineering studies, I think it’s also critical that we start to examine the other end of the pipeline: our hiring practices. Do we have a mental image of what an engineer “should look like?” Are there other biases driving our hiring decisions? If so, it’s time to get past that nonsense immediately and focus on all of the candidates who are looking for careers in engineering.

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