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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 18, 2017 1:00 am

Influx of women causing engineering issues

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

The motives may be good, but maybe the pendulum has swung too far among engineers. Females, to be exact.

Research by a University of Illinois researcher says the intentional increase of females in management roles in engineering may have unintended consequences. A paper from M. Teresa Cardador, professor of labor and employment relations, suggests the emphasis may add a layer of sex segregation on top of the one it's meant to mitigate, a news release from the university said.

Women represent just 15 percent of the overall engineering workforce and as little as 8 percent in some specialized fields, such as mechanical engineering. To account for that disparity, some organizations have actively sought to promote women to the point that female engineers are now in managerial roles in numbers disproportionate to their overall representation as employees, the release said.

“There are typically two career paths in engineering organizations – technical or managerial,” Cardador said in a statement. “So you can look at it in two ways: Either women are more likely to move into managerial roles in engineering firms, or they're less likely to stay in technical roles.”

“In business, the highest-status positions tend to be managerial. But in engineering, technical ability is revered while management is what you do if you have good organizational and communication skills,” Cardador said. 

That means management is less associated with having “technical chops,” said Cardador, whose paper on the topic was published in the journal “Organization Science.”

Boundless with boundaries

You can be personable and effective, but still maintain boundaries at work.

Neeta Bhushan, one of about 35 people Michelle Pizer of Melbourne, Australia, interviewed for “Crack the Leadership Code” podcasts this year, believes in exercising internal strength but still keeping rapport in relationships.

One example of boundaries involves nonnegotiables, such as deadlines or goals, Bhushan said in the interview for the 17-day podcast series, which concluded this month. Leaders need effective communication with teams; it helps build respect and understanding about what's reasonable.

One of the top human desires is acceptance, Bhushan said, so people tend to sacrifice their values or boundaries when feeling pressure from expectations and demands from others. It sets those who do up for frustration and resentment, however.

Among the traits Bhushan thinks are helpful are compassion - for self and others; authenticity and vulnerability; adaptability and courage.

An entrepreneur, Bhushan is author of “Emotional Grit: 8 Steps to Master Your Emotions, Transform Your Thoughts & Change Your World.” GRIT is an acronym for grow, reveal, innovate and transform.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at