Knowledge Center

Women in Engineering: An Untapped Resource

This study highlights the factors that lead to success for women engineers, and examines obstacles to their recruitment, advancement, and retention. It also details progressive corporate policies, programs, and practices that make the engineering environment one in which women can achieve their career potential.


  • Roundtable discussions were conducted with human resources managers.

  • Focus groups were conducted with women and men engineers.

  • Interviews were conducted with engineering supervisors within 30 corporations.

Findings: Women engineers enjoy their work, despite numerous obstacles and often challenging working conditions. Corporate engineering culture is male-oriented, with intense pressure to conform to “masculine” styles. A competent, confident woman is likely to be considered “too aggressive.” Due to small numbers of women engineers, male managers have limited experience evaluating women’s capabilities, so they are extremely cautious about promoting them. Paternalistic attitudes and assumptions about work environments and conditions appropriate for women deprive women of critical work assignments. There is an absence of women role models.

Sponsors: AT&T Foundation, 3M Company, Motorola, Texaco Foundation, Westinghouse Foundation