Women as Sustainability Leaders in Engineering: Evidence from Industry and Academia in the U.S.

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International Journal of Engineering Education






Tempus Publications


Women are underrepresented in engineering education and practice, which limits the quality of the engineering workforce. One way to increase the participation of women in engineering is to emphasize subjects that appeal to them and require skills at which they are especially adept. A subject that may fit this description is sustainability. To examine whether the subject of sustainability may help increase the participation of women in engineering, the purpose of this research is to compare the percentage of women in selected sustainable engineering leadership positions with the percentage of women in general engineering leadership positions. Gender data were collected for the ‘sustainability leader’ at 79 of the largest design and construction companies in the U.S. Similar data were also compiled for engineering faculty attending workshops to share best practices for teaching sustainability. The percentage of women in the sustainability leader industry positions is much higher (39%) than the percentage of women in general management positions (8%). The percentage of woman attending the workshops is much higher (32%) than the percentage of woman engineering faculty (12%). Analysis of these results shows a statistically significant positive correlation between the subject of sustainability and increased percentages of women in engineering leadership positions. Increased consideration of sustainability in engineering education and practice could also help address the critical need to attract more women to the field.