The numbers of women studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in college and entering the work force in related fields are already pretty terrible, but it only gets worse as their careers progress. A new study from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, revealed that 40 percent of female engineers will leave the industry entirely during their careers. That's not the only startling statistic about female engineers—women earn 20 percent of engineering degrees, but just 11 percent of practicing engineers are female.
5,300 women who completed engineering degrees were studied over a sixty year period by Nadya Fouad, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. During Fouad's presentation of her findings, she was pretty blunt about the reason these smart, qualified women are leaving the field: "It's the climate, stupid!" Fouad reported that many women called the industry "hostile" towards women and in general, unfriendly.
Women aren't driven to leave the industry due to a lack of drive or ability to keep up, but because of the office environment. The male-dominated industry features relatively few female role models, inflexible work schedules, narrow paths to leadership roles and of course, an omnipresent glass ceiling. To improve the numbers of women in STEM, we need to do more than just encourage women's interest in these fields, but help to cultivate an industry atmosphere that women will want to be a part of.