The Leaky Pipe: Why Women Leave Engineering (.PDF Download)

Nov. 9, 2017
The Leaky Pipe: Why Women Leave Engineering (.PDF Download)

In recent years, the Women in Microwaves—a subset of the IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE)—has created networking opportunities, recognized accomplished women in the industry, and delved into why women do not enter or stay in microwave engineering. Typically, much of this effort is put into events during Microwave Week, when the International Microwave Symposium is held. This year, a special session on Women in Engineering is also being held at the IEEE Conference on Microwaves, Communications, Antennas, Electronic Systems, and Bio-Medical Engineering (COMCAS), which takes place in Israel. I recently had a chance to talk with Hagit Messer, an endowed Professor at the School of Electrical Engineering, Tel Aviv University, about why she put together this event and the issues women in Israel in particular face that may cause them to leave engineering.

NF: What do you think are the biggest issues faced by efforts to bring and keep more women in engineering?

HM: Women in engineering are facing a three-pronged challenge:

1. Bringing girls/young women into STEM.

2. Breaking the glass ceiling by making sure women are promoted as men are.

3. Fixing the “leaky pipe,” which is a term for how we successfully bring young women in via STEM, succeed in having them get engineering degrees and subsequently jobs, but then lose them about 10 years later when they leave for various reasons. This is a problem particularly in Israel, where relatively many women go into engineering, do brilliant work, do well in their careers, but still opt to change careers a decade or so into their work lives. It should be noted that according to Intel, this leaky pipe issue affects other diverse populations beyond women.