Gender inequality is a prominent challenge in many fields, including engineering. In fact, the gender gap with reference to female representation is easily noticed; based on She Figures (2021), women at the EU-27 level reach only 29,43% of doctoral graduates in the field of Engineering, manufacturing and construction -with this percentage in Greece being sublty higher at 35%. Underrepresentation also continues to exist with respect to women being employed as engineers. Indicatively with reference to Greece, this percentage reaches approximately 33% (She Figures, 2021).
However, the unequal numerical representation is not the sole or most important challenge. Stereotypes and informal networks that evoke prejudiced behaviour towards non-dominant groups are prominent in various fields and organisations, including the engineering ones. Many women report feeling isolated in out-groups and unwelcome in male-dominated engineering environments, which can discourage them from pursuing or continuing careers in the field. Additionally, both explicit and implicit biases can lead to women being overlooked or undervalued for their contributions (e.g. the famous Matilda effect), overall creating barriers to career advancement and leadership positions, and an overall reinforcing loop of gender inequality.
Hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 1987) is also quite evident in STEM and male-dominated fields and organisations. Hegemonic masculinity favours or even legitimises male dominant positions, and considers that anything not abiding by this male, hegemonic norm is inferior. In fact, hegemonic masculinity can also often emerge from asymmetrical power relations; all types of organisations -and, as mentioned earlier, particularly male-dominated ones- are characterised as gendered institutions (Acker, 1990). Both their formal and informal practices (re)produce gendered patterns, resulting in systemic inequality.
Gender inequality in engineering overall has a number of negative impacts. Indicatively, it limits the potential for innovation and creativity, as diversity in perspectives and experiences is essential to problem-solving and genuine progress. Additionally, gender inequality can lead to a loss of talent and a shortage of skilled workers in the field. This can have economic and social implications, as engineering plays a critical role in areas such as infrastructure, technology, and environmental sustainability.
Efforts to address gender inequality in engineering are ongoing. It should be noted though, that the goal is not to fix the individuals or fix the women. The goal is to fix the institutions, fix the culture, fix the practices.
What do you think is the most frequent gender-related challenge in the engineering field and organisations?
- Females and diverse groups of people are not equally represented in leadership and high-authority positions
- Implicit bias
- Asymmetrical power relations in the various facets of the organisational life
- Lack of role models
What kind of actions do you think are needed the most in the AUTH GEP?
- Actions in relation to Gender-inclusive and gender-sensitive environment
- Actions in relation to Gender mainstreaming in teaching and research
- Actions in relation to Balanced gender representation in leadership and decision-making positions
- Actions in relation to Gender equality in recruitment and career development
- Actions in relation to Gender-based violence and harassment
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