Part I: Introduction to Industrial Engineering
I joined Virginia Tech as I wanted to pursue a degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering. One of the roots of engineering lie in the interest an individual has in math and science. In 1992, the amount of girls which took math and science courses was very low compared to the boys. But this trend has changed since then as there is not much of a difference in the amount of math and science classes they take. But the amount of boys taking advanced science courses is yet significantly higher than the girls.
Let me briefly explain what consists in Industrial Engineering. This is the least technical engineering as it focuses on management, optimization, statistics, facilities planning and focuses on a wide variety of problem solving when it comes to finding probabilities. Even though this is an engineering degree, many under-graduates from this field enter fields not associated to engineering at all. The reason is that what we learn from this field can be applied to anything as optimization and correct management is required everywhere. The only technical aspects in this field are absorbed by learning the basics of other engineering departments. To complete this degree successfully it is very important to have a strong base in mathematics and logical reasoning. This is the reason Industrial Engineers are hired for a variety of purposes from finance, management, sales and specifically the manufacturing department. Since this engineering has so many different uses it is highly preferred by those individuals with a business background or inclination. Since we learn the basics of other engineering fields, very often we are involved in the role of coordinating with engineers from different fields. The reason I am stressing about this field is because of its nature, women are very open to entering it.
Since I have been in Virginia Tech, I can confidently say that the ratio of men to women in our department here is 55-45. Many of my female friends in the department are doing very well and have also got great opportunities to participate in co-op’s with companies like UPS, GE, Boeing, Accenture and many others. So, from ‘my personal’ experience I can say that there is no issue with regards to coping with the material at hand.
Part II: General and Industrial Engineering Trends
I think I am entering a partially male-dominated field. I say partial now because previously Industrial Engineering was specifically associated to optimization of the factory. The situation is very different now. The average salary for a male in ISE is $44,100 while the average for is $41,300. But another statistic which I found (from Bayer) is that Industrial Engineering is the last in the bottom five natural sciences and engineering occupations for women. My views were based on the amount of international women students who are enrolled in the ISE program at VT. The following are the top five natural sciences and engineering occupations for women:
1. Biological scientist (16,010)2. Postsecondary teacher, Life science & related (7,310)3. Computer & Information scientist (5,280)4. Chemist (except biochem.) (3,420)5. Postsecondary teacher, Physical science & related (3,130)
I also found some additional information on women in the Industrial Engineering field from www.engineeringsalary.com This information does contradict the previous information and I thought it was important to mention both as we can view how different trends are analyzed.
“ Among engineering specialties, industrial, chemical and metallurgical engineers were the only occupations in which women were better represented than the overall percent of total women engineers. “
Patricia Daniel’s an engineer from Berkeley makes an important point when she was working as a TA in the ISE dept. that, “Women in engineering still have to be better than average. They’ll be watching for that first mistake.”
From this statement I realize that many women have been prevented directly and indirectly from society and gender formation which made it uncomfortable for them to think of entering a technical and man-dominated engineering field. Another aspect she pointed out that even if a woman gets an A- in a course she doesn’t think she knows enough while her male partner is flowing with confidence when he gets a C- in his course.
The following is some general data on women in the field of engineering and sciences which further highlights the fact that in engineering equality has not been achieved. (from Bayer)
Only 62,060 of the nation's 384,610 Ph.D. natural scientists and engineers are women, just 16% of the total. In no field of science or occupational category are there equal or greater numbers of women and men. Only 10% of natural scientist and engineer Ph.D.'s over 50 years old are women. 25% of the natural scientist and engineer Ph.D.'s 35 years old or under are women. 56% of the natural scientist and engineer Ph.D.'s who are women report having no children at home. More women hold Life and related sciences Ph.D.'s than other broad areas of natural science and engineering (66%). Fewer (4,450) women hold Engineering Ph.D.'s than other broad areas of natural science and engineering. Women Ph.D.'s in natural sciences & engineering fields receive an average of $8,000 to $12,000 less in salary than men in the same fields. Women Ph.D.'s in Engineering receive the highest average salary, $58,300. Women Ph.D.'s in Life science & related receive the lowest average salary, $44,000. Women constitute 39% of the students enrolled in graduate science and engineering programs. The numbers of women enrolled has been increasing steadily since 1980.”
I also came across that in 1996 11,316 women became engineers while 51,798 men became engineers. Women were 19 percent of total undergraduate enrollment in engineering programs in 1997, up from 15 percent a decade earlier. The Society Of Women Engineers says that in 2000 there were 159,440 male ISE’s compared to 31,380(16.6%) female ISE’s.
Part III: Action!
From my understanding of the textbook and my research online I have not found situation where there is inequality at the workplace. I think the most important aspect is about equal opportunities. I don’t think that in this age women in professional fields are treated unfairly and that their salaries have a big difference. The social constructs have created restrictions and biases which do not give equal opportunities to progress in the workplace. For example, suppose there was a project available to implement the ERP program (software) into the factory, statistics say that a man would be preferred for the job as the factory environment does not match a woman. There is also another case of bias against women. Statistics say that during an interview when a man negotiates a higher price, 34% of the times the company agrees. Generally women do not try to negotiate, but the ones who do have a success rate of 9%. In the previous case, the person (whether male or female) who takes the interview of the woman find her to be unprofessional.
The amount of women in Industrial engineering is increasing on a rapid pace and their position in the workplace is getting more diversified and stable. I think this change is not only based on the changing attitudes but also comes from the history of bias against women in the engineering field.
The preferred field in engineering is Computer and Electrical as it is the most in demand and it also yields the highest salary. Many women who are interested in financial research and a flexible work-option after graduation also consider ISE (can work part-time or from home).
Organizations making Contributions:
EngineeringGirl.Org – This website gives the basics and an introduction to engineering for women. They also have many advice tools prospective students can use to decide which courses or their field of interest. They also have a section which highlights the
Society of Women Engineers – It is the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career aspect for women. They have local help situated in certain locations to advise prospective students.
Even though Title VII was created to remove gender as a criterion for a job, we will never really know why a person was rejected from a particular job. The only way to battle this is to continue to penetrate different segments which are male dominated to keep reducing the difference.
Teachers should try to make their course-work relate to actual careers and to challenge students ideas about gender-appropriate careers. (from AAUW)
Schools should increase the number science classes taken by girls.
Certain science classes should be made compulsory until the completion of high school.