The Society of Women Engineers: Top research trends in 2013

The Society of Women Engineers' (SWE) compiled the best research found in the past year's social science literature on women engineers and women in STEM disciplines. Listed here are some of the top trends across the various research initiatives.


Courtesy: SWE2013 saw the publication of a large quantity of scholarly work relevant to the situation of women in engineering. SWE's review of the literature covered more than 100 publications, including books, major reports, and journal articles in publications representing a half dozen or more disciplines.

Here are the top trends being researched in this field:

Minority women engineers: There was an increased discussion of the situation of minority women engineers this year. The Institute for Women's Policy Research published a major report on women faculty of color in STEM. In addition, the IEEE Computer Society's Computer magazine focused its March 2013 issue on gender diversity in computing.

Women in STEM fields: As in previous years, much research attention was devoted to the question of why women are not attracted to STEM majors or to careers in STEM fields, with engineering being a particularly acute case. There was also continued interest in the question of why women leave. While the “leaky pipeline” metaphor is not widely endorsed, as it once was as an explanation of women's underrepresentation in engineering, researchers continue to find evidence that, in fact, the field does not attract equal numbers of young men and women, and women who enter engineering are more likely to leave at various point along the way.

Long-term field research: The Project to Asses Climate in Engineering (PACE) is a long-term research project that aims to shed light on factors affecting the retention of undergraduate engineering students, particularly women and minority students. The program began in 2006 and is currently ongoing.

Intersectionality: While the number of women in engineering remain relatively small, the numbers of women of color are even smaller. This points to the reality that attracting and retaining more minority women to engineering involves not simple dealing with gender barriers, but with the way gender and race/ethnicity interact and combine to impose obstacles.

Women working as engineers: Many researchers have previously noted the percentages of engineering degrees earned by women exceed the percentages of employed engineers who are women. The underrepresentation of women in engineering, then, is not simply a matter of women's initial lack of interest in the profession or their choices to leave engineering degrees and enter the labor market, but they drop out of the engineering labor force at some point later in their lives.

To read the full article and to view the sources of this research, visit SWE's Spring 2014 publication here.

Edited by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, associate content manager, CFE Media, jdmaahs[a]

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