Women in Engineering, ThurmanCo, Project Management, Angela Thurman

How Do Women Approach Engineering Differently Than Men?

It’s unrealistic to generalize “all women engineers” as a monolithic group. Even so, research has shown that there are some general differences in the ways that women approach engineering compared to men.

Studies suggest that social and cultural factors, including differences in socialization, educational experiences, and workplace cultures, may influence these gender differences in engineering practices.

Studies have found that women tend to emphasize communication more than men.

A study conducted by the University of Michigan examined how gender differences affect the way engineers seek and incorporate feedback from others. Among their findings:

  • Women engineers were more likely to seek feedback and input from colleagues and stakeholders than their male counterparts.
  • Women were more open to receiving and incorporating feedback into their work.
  • Men were more likely to rely on their expertise and experience and less likely to seek feedback from others.

The researchers attributed this gender difference to several factors.

  • Women are often socialized to be more cooperative and collaborative, which may make them more receptive to feedback and input from others.
  • Women may be more likely to value relationships and build trust with colleagues and stakeholders, facilitating more open communication and feedback.
  • The researchers suggested expectations and norms around masculinity and individual achievement may influence behavior.

Studies have found that women tend to place a greater emphasis on social responsibility in engineering.

A study conducted by the University of Washington examined how gender differences influence the types of problems that engineers choose to solve.

The study included these conclusions:

  • Women are often socialized to prioritize relationships, community, and social responsibility. This may influence the types of problems that they choose to address in their work.
  • Women may be more likely to consider the broader societal and environmental implications of their work, whereas men may be more focused on technical problem-solving.
  • Women engineers tend to work in fields that more closely align with their values and priorities, such as environmental and biomedical engineering.
  • Men are more likely to work in traditionally male-dominated fields, such as aerospace and mechanical engineering.

Research has found that women tend to focus more on inclusion and diversity in engineering. 

A study by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) examined the factors influencing women’s decisions to pursue and stay in engineering careers. The study found that women engineers:

  • Are more likely to seek out supportive work environments in companies and organizations that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Value opportunities for professional growth and development.
  • Value opportunities for work-life balance and flexibility.

In addition, it identified barriers that women face when pursuing engineering careers, such as:

  • Gender bias and discrimination.
  • Lack of representation and role models.
  • Limited access to networking and mentorship opportunities.

The SWE study highlights the importance of creating inclusive and supportive workplaces that value diversity and provide opportunities for growth and development. 

Conclusion

Research suggests that women approach engineering differently than men, with a more communicative, socially responsible, and inclusive mindset. Understanding these differences can help organizations create more supportive and effective work environments for all engineers.

Overall, it’s essential to recognize that women bring unique perspectives and approaches to engineering, and increasing diversity within the field can lead to more innovative and effective solutions.

As a woman in technology, I’ve witnessed the trends mentioned here and have known other women who shared similar experiences. At Thurman Co., we do our best to remove barriers where they might emerge. When each team member is given their best chance at success, everyone benefits: leadership, employees, and our clients.

We help businesses manage projects to significantly impact their success and growth. When you’re ready to put your project in the hands of a trusted professional organization, contact us to learn more about working together.

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