| For Immediate Release: |
September 27, 2006
CONTACT: Donald Lehr
The Nolan/Lehr Group
(212) 967-8200 / email@example.com
Bias Against Women In Engineering And Science?
It’s Not News To Professionals Working Against It Every Day
When the National Academy of Sciences issued its watershed report, “Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering" on September 18, it made headlines across the nation for its forceful indictment of long-running institutional anti-women bias.
For America’s women engineers and the societies, organizations and programs that work with them, however, it didn’t come as news at all.
“Women have made major strides in other academic and professional areas, while their progress in a number of science and engineering fields remains stubbornly low,” says C. Diane Matt, CAE, Executive Director of Women in Engineering Programs & Advocates Network, Inc.“WEPAN members’ experience and work in university settings to realize the full participation of women in engineering mirror the findings of the study.”
Jude Garzolini, President of the Society of Women Engineers, says the findings also echo her organization’s work.“SWE has long been concerned with this issue, and for the past five years has released a comprehensive annual review detailing the status of women engineers in industry and academia.”
Speaking for efforts that directly help women who choose engineering and science careers, Carol Muller, the founder and CEO of MentorNet, says she and others doing similar work “were far ahead of the majority of the scientific and technical community in bringing the social science research on gender to the attention of practitioners.”
Yet, Muller adds, the study could have gone farther by noting the impact that mentoring programs have in helping recruit and encourage women in science and engineering.
MentorNet, which links women graduate students and early career faculty in science and engineering with tenured faculty mentors in their fields, found that mentors typically spend as little as 15 minutes a week reading and writing emails with protégés.
Can years of institutional bias and ongoing subtle discrimination against professional women in science and engineering be fixed in 15 minutes?The time may sound short, but according to two-thirds of the program’s participants surveyed, those messages of encouragement and advice translate to a substantial base of support at critical moments in their academic pursuits.
MentorNet, SWE, and WEPAN are three of more than 75 engineering, professional, and technical societies and some 50 corporations and government agencies that are partners of Engineers Week, a formal coalition founded in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers.Engineers Week (www.eweek.org), February 18-24, 2007, is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers among young students and by promoting pre-college literacy in math and science.
One flagship program of Engineers Week is Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, scheduled for Thursday, February 22, 2007."Girl Day" mobilizes thousands of women engineers – with support from their male colleagues – to mentor and share firsthand experiences of engineering to more than one million girls and young women each year.
Muller says that programs sponsored by MentorNet, SWE, WEPAN, and, among others, the Association for Women in Science, and the Women in Engineering Leadership Institute, offer important forums that support women in science and engineering.“They provide ways for women to access significant support and mentoring, and the opportunity to benchmark their experiences in ways which have enabled women to recognize that their experiences were not isolated,” says Muller.She adds that the sense of belonging that men in engineering and science take for granted is often missing for their women colleagues.
The voices of those working in the trenches are often isolated and sometimes ignored, but women in the profession are hopeful that the prestige of the National Academy of Sciences will finally be the catalyst for real change on a widespread scale.
“The report provides a much needed policy imperative, and we hope university leaders across the country will engage in a full assessment of the climate and take steps to improve the recruitment, retention and advancement of women,” says Diane Matt of WEPAN.
Carol Muller says she also hopes the report will prod a change but, like any good engineer, is waiting for concrete results.“The National Academies, representing the nation's best-recognized scientists and engineers, have now heard about gender bias and discrimination from their own and reviewed by their own,” she says.“It will be very interesting to see what actions may ensue.”
MentorNet (www.MentorNet.net), headquartered in San Jose, California, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization working to further the progress of women and others underrepresented in scientific and technical fields through the use of a dynamic, technology-supported mentoring network.MentorNet aims to advance individuals and society, and enhance engineering and related sciences by promoting a diversified, expanded and talented global workforce.In partnership with colleges and universities, corporations, government labs and agencies, and professional societies, MentorNet is international in scope, serving students and professionals from all over the world.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE), founded in 1950, is a not-for-profit educational and service organization.SWE is the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women.SWE empowers women to succeed and advance in those aspirations and be recognized for their life-changing contributions and achievements as engineers and leaders.For more information about the Society please visit www.swe.org or call (312) 596-5223.
WEPAN’s mission is to be a catalyst, advocate, and leading resource for institutional and national change that enables the success of all women in engineering.It has over 600 members from nearly 200 engineering schools, companies ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 corporations, and nonprofit organizations.A national nonprofit educational organization, WEPAN is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.For more information, visit www.wepan.org.