Don't blame women for leaving fields like engineering—blame bad attitudes

Don't blame women for leaving fields like engineering—blame bad attitudes
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There are reasons why feminists use the slogan "the personal is political", especially when men make arguments using the age old idea that "biology is destiny".

Manglin Pillay, the CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering, recently resorted to these types of arguments about the dearth of in engineering.

Citing some research Pillay essentially argued that women were better suited to care for children than to work in the Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) field. He said this explains the under-representation of women in the engineering field. He wrote that: "The fact that more men occupy high profile executive posts is tremendous not because of gender but because of appetite for work load and extreme performance requirements at that level…"

He further noted that women do not occupy high positions in the engineering fields because they "choose to have the flexibility to dedicate themselves to more important enterprises like family and raising of children…"

The article caused an uproar. Pillay has since apologised for his sexism after an outcry from many women including the Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, also a woman.

Regardless of the apology, we need to understand what kinds of attitudes inform Pillay's thinking. He is not alone in this thinking and an apology doesn't mean that attitudes have changed. And there is a chance that Pillay misused the concerned research as experts in the field come to different conclusions.

Pillay's arguments boiled down to blaming women for the fact that there are so few of them in engineering field.

This is nonsense.

The results of a study on the experiences women face as engineers in the workplace in the US sheds light on the factors that explain the situation. The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2017, involved a sample of 1464 women engineers who had left the field. It showed that their decision to leave jobs in the engineering field were related to a number of key factors.

Firstly, poor and unfair working conditions. This included inequitable compensation as well as inflexible work environments that make work-family balance difficult. Secondly, dissatisfaction with effective use of their math and science skills, and lastly the lack of recognition at work and adequate opportunities for advancement.

These findings show that work life balance and the glass ceiling for women are indeed the problems – not a lack of ambition or a biological need to mother children.

The problem therefore is not with women, but with the workplace and fairness in the family. If companies attend to these problems women will stay, and progress.

The numbers tell a story

While reproductive rights apply to both men and women, pregnancy is often viewed only as a woman's "problem". It's left to women to fight for , often against incredible odds given that many companies see it as a costly imposition.

Labour legislation in South Africa now provides for paid maternity leave – six weeks paid leave, and a total of four months unpaid. But many companies adhere only to the prescribed minimum, and also often make it difficult for women to take this leave.

But research shows that companies that take a more generous approach reap the rewards.

Take the US experience. The 100 best companies in the US listed by Working Mother magazine shows that companies that offer up to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave have a much higher retention rate of women. And they have lower staff turnover.

Accenture, a company that has doubled its maternity leave to 16 weeks saw 40% fewer women leave the company within a year after the increase. KPMG increased its maternity leave from 8 to 18 weeks and its retention rate of women also increased. KPMG states that it is cheaper to pay an additional 10 weeks of leave and coaching for new parents than paying for a new staff member which is the equivalent of 78 weeks' salary.

There is therefore a business case to be made for maternity leave. Young couples now look at what companies offer when it comes to childcare arrangements and those with good maternity leave policies are more attractive.

Flexitime is another important way of keeping women in certain professions and making it easier for them to combine childcare responsibilities with work. Forbes magazine calls flexible a non-negotiable for engineers.

How to retain women

Important lessons can be learnt from successful companies that have achieved high retention rates of women and increased staff morale and productivity.

Apart from increasing paid maternity leave, these companies have successfully develop policies that support women when they return to work. They have done this by developing values that recognise the long term gain of having women stay, and move up the management ladder. But these values have to be modelled at the top management level, such as the position in which Pillay is an incumbent.

What shouldn't be happening in 2018 is that men in Pillay's position continue to send the message to women engineers that they can't measure up because they are women.


Explore further

The US is stingier with child care and maternity leave than the rest of the world

Journal information: Frontiers in Psychology

Provided by The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.The Conversation

Citation: Don't blame women for leaving fields like engineering—blame bad attitudes (2018, August 24) retrieved 18 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-08-dont-blame-women-fields-engineeringblame.html
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Aug 24, 2018
Among other things carefully ignored is , for example, the income of companies offering extended paid leave. Companies that are already rich can offer many things that small companies have historically not been able to provide money for. In the article in Working Mother magazine, it describes 26% of companies as not providing extensive paid maternity leave. That is much the same proportion of companies that are not multi million dollar firms. Note that the richer companies also have advantages like contact with politicians, many of which may favor requiring longer paid maternity leaves, to buy constituents' unquestioning loyalty. And the large companies that provide extended maternity leave wouldn't mind their politician friends passing laws requiring all companies to provide that expensive option, which can destroy small companies, leaving the space open for the big companies to move in.

Aug 26, 2018
"Manglin Pillay, the CEO of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering... Citing some research Pillay essentially argued that women were better suited to care for children..."

-The counties with the highest population growth rates are in Africa and the middle east.
https://www.world...wth.html

-Religion-fueled pop growth is the cause of most conflict and misery in the world today. The surviving religions have always relied on outgrowing and overrunning their competitors, and central to this strategy is forcing women to make babies until it kills them.

In the west, women have been allowed the freedom to choose meaningful alternatives. Childbearing gets more dangerous as a woman ages. Women will naturally limit the number of children they will bear when given the opportunity to do something else with their lives.
Cont>

Aug 26, 2018
This is not exclusively the fault of men. Mothers are just as complicit in sustaining this attitude for their daughters. The problem is religion. The more religious a society is, the faster it grows, and the more problems it experiences.

Looking at the map
https://en.wikipe...wth_rate

-one can see that growth directly correlates with religiosity. The more secular a country is, the slower the growth rate, and the more peaceful and prosperous it is.

Aug 26, 2018
These findings show that work life balance and the glass ceiling for women are indeed the problems – not a lack of ambition or a biological need to mother children.


I'm confused. Men in these jobs don't require and don't have maternity leave or flexi-time, yet they stay at their posts, but still somehow this is not about womens' lack of ambition and not about women wanting to have babies instead of work.

inequitable compensation as well as inflexible work environments that make work-family balance difficult. Secondly, dissatisfaction with effective use of their math and science skills, and lastly the lack of recognition at work and adequate opportunities for advancement


Sounds about right for an entry position in a big engineering company. Surprise surprise, you don't get to use half the stuff you learned at school, because a) you're probably not very good and need further training, and b) they needed someone to just swap pick & place machine reels

Aug 26, 2018
-Religion-fueled pop growth is the cause of most conflict and misery in the world today. The surviving religions have always relied on outgrowing and overrunning their competitors, and central to this strategy is forcing women to make babies until it kills them.


You got the cause and effect backwards. High-breeding populations have always survived over those who choose to restrict their own population growth. Religiosity is just canonizing the biological imperative into a social dogma - the people feel like it, so they invent a religion that says it must be so.

That's how all society works. E.g. law is not a source of morality, morality is a source of law, and where morality conflicts with law, the law yields. People pretend they're being governed by law, or religion, or philosophy, but they're really following a collective instinct.

Aug 27, 2018
High-breeding populations have always survived over those who choose to restrict their own population growth
Yes, the most unfortunate dichotomy facing the species today. Civilization could only prevail those hordes surrounding it by growing even faster. So religions were invented to facilitate this.

But the world is now full. We no longer need religions to conquer it. And their continued existence threatens us all.

Nothing is forever but Empire. Solutions are already in the works and have been for centuries. Its obvious now for instance that the catholic church was designed with certain built-in self-destruct mechanisms. Genius really.

Aug 27, 2018
morality is a source of law
The tribe is the source of all morality.

"Darwin was also aware of the ethnocentrism and xenophobia in social organisms. In animals living in groups, he wrote, "sympathy is directed solely towards members of the same community, and therefore towards known, and more or less loved members, but not to all the individuals of the same species"...
"As regards humans, Darwin stated that "the confinement of sympathy to the same tribe" must have been the rule. This was for him one of the chief causes of the low morality of the savages. "Primeval man", he argued, "regarded actions as good or bad solely as they obviously affected the welfare of the tribe, not of the species". Among the living tribal peoples, he added, "the virtues are practised almost exclusively in relation to the men of the same tribe" and the corresponding vices "are not regarded as crimes" if practised on other tribes (Darwin, 1871)

Speciation - its biological.

Aug 27, 2018
and where morality conflicts with law, the law yields
Now this is just naive. Ever hear of politics? Laws are created by lawmakers whose only interests are those of the tribe who elected them. See my darwin excerpt. And further, if theyre not making laws theyre not perceived as doing their jobs. So we tend to end up with lots of worthless and immoral laws.

Plus, lawyers advocate for their CLIENTS, not the law... whether it is moral to do so or not.

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