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ACM TechNews

Tech Culture Still Pushing Out Women, Study Finds

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Social dynamics and "culture fit" are a big reason female engineers leave.

A new study found that social dynamics and culture fit are major reasons female engineers tend to stay in the profession at a lower rate than their male counterparts.

Credit: Stephen Sauer

Social dynamics and "culture fit" are a key reason why female engineers tend to leave the profession sooner than men, according to a new study released by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); the University of California, Irvine; the University of Michigan, and McGill University.

"It turns out gender makes a big difference," says MIT professor Susan Silbey. "It's a cultural phenomenon."

The research involved having more than 40 undergraduate engineering students keep bi-monthly diaries, providing the study with more than 3,000 entries to analyze.

The study found, especially in the case of internships, summer work, and team-building exercises, women feel excluded and marginalized with their male counterparts receiving better opportunities. The researchers say this cultural phenomenon is why women account for 20% of engineering degrees awarded, but make up only 13% of the engineering workforce.

"For many women, their first encounter with collaboration is to be treated in gender-stereotypical ways," the report notes.

In 2014, a GigaOm study of 12 large technology companies found they were about 68% male on average.

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