This is a guest post from Leslie Campos. Opinions expressed by Engineering our Future contributors are their own.
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As a woman in engineering, you've probably heard how easy it is for female engineering grads to get hired. It's not entirely untrue: Due to diversity and inclusion initiatives, companies are eager to add women to their teams. What that number leaves out, however, is that 40 percent of women who earn an engineering degree leave the field. While women earn 20 percent of engineering degrees, they make up only 13 percent of the profession.
Why do so many women drop out of engineering? It's not for a lack of aptitude. Rather, women rethink engineering careers due to the myriad ways that implicit bias limits their advancement in a male-dominated profession.
Gender Bias in Engineering
How does implicit bias impede women's success in STEM? These are some of the gender disparities reported by women engineers.
- Earning less for the same job.
- Limited advancement opportunities (AKA the “glass ceiling”).
- Losing out on desirable assignments.
- Being assigned to menial or managerial tasks.
- Viewed as less competent and/or committed.
Less support from senior leaders.
Gender-based discrimination, harassment, and microaggressions.
Female-Friendly Employers in Engineering
How can women succeed in engineering without suffering through bias and discrimination?
Research suggests the most important factor in women's retention in STEM is a sense of belonging. When women feel like they're an integral part of an organization, they're more likely to succeed. How can engineering grads identify firms where they’ll fit in? Don't be swayed by stock photos of female engineers and booths at women-in-tech events, HP warns. Instead, pay attention to the work environment and benefits package to identify female-friendly employers.
Workplace ‘green flags’
Visiting an office is the best way to get a peek into the company culture. Pay attention to the number of women in technical and leadership positions as well as subtle cues like a well-stocked ladies’ restroom and company swag in sizes other than men's large.
What about the benefits?
Evaluating a company's benefits is more clear-cut. Do they offer family-oriented benefits like child care and parental leave, or does the job ad allude to a “brogrammer” culture that treats work-life balance like a four-letter word?
How to Get Hired at a Female-Friendly Company
How can women engineers get hired — and thrive — at a female-friendly firm?
Network, network, network
There's nothing more valuable than networking and referrals for getting hired at a first-choice company. Don't treat networking events as an opportunity to hand out as many business cards as possible. Take time to listen and develop an understanding of who is connected to whom.
Write a great engineering resume
Graduates also need a strong resume and cover letter. Recent graduates should highlight projects, internships, and technical skills to distinguish themselves from others with the same degree. Avoid writing errors and passive voice. If writing isn't your strong suit, use resume writing services to create a polished, professional resume.
Don't forget soft skills
Soft skills are a priority at companies that value equity and inclusion. Prepare to demonstrate how you've used soft skills like communication and relationship-building during the interview.
Perfect your elevator pitch
What's your story? A compelling story is what makes an applicant memorable enough to hire. Don't regurgitate your resume when an interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself.” Take the opportunity to talk about the personal characteristics and values that make you the right candidate. And most importantly, be authentic.
Find a mentor
A mentor is an invaluable resource whether you're working at a female-forward company or a male-dominated firm. Women mentors in engineering are important for representation as well as encouragement, advice, and guidance. In addition to a mentor, seek a sponsor to recommend you for projects and promotions.
Advocate for yourself
Don't rely on others to advocate for you. It's also important to advocate for yourself as a woman engineer. Instead of letting imposter syndrome take hold when you're not getting the right opportunities, speak up. Silence only works against you so get comfortable owning your achievements and asking for what you need.
Every company says they want diversity. Unfortunately, finding an employer that truly champions gender equity is a bigger challenge for female engineering grads. Instead of letting implicit bias in engineering stand in the way of your career goals, get hired at a company that's invested in women in STEM.