It’s also true that the reality of discrimination can be hard to sort out. Weiss observes, “One of the ways gender gets used is not as a gender bias per se. The gender discrimination comes because of the rivalry. Even if, culturally, it’s a place that doesn’t have a particular bias, people will try things to get in your way, and that’s one place where women get tripped up. If you’re ambitious and moving up the ladder, gender is something that can be used to trip you up.”
Still, being a woman engineer is getting easier. “The under-40s are completely at ease with women as managers and coworkers,” says Scholten. “Their girlfriends and wives all work, and they’re used to it. The older men can be gallant, but some can be old-fashioned and prejudiced about women in technical jobs and management.”
Joy Weiss, president and CEO at Dust Networks.
Do It Again
All but two of these women said, in spite of everything, they would become engineers again. Those who wouldn’t—or wouldn’t recommend that their daughters enter the field—say it’s not because of gender bias, but the realities of the profession.
Summers says, “I wouldn’t tell them to go into engineering. You’re in school a long time to get a job you may not be able to keep no matter how good you are. You can go into medicine or law where you’re not going to face the salary cuts. There’s no guarantee this will be a good job.”
On the other hand, Weiss says, engineering “has served me very well. I learned a lot. It’s an extraordinary pedigree I didn’t appreciate at the time. It’s a fantastic opportunity for women.”
“I’ve had a blast in my career,” says Dunn, finishing with her favorite story about how her children see the future of women in engineering. “I went to one of my sons’ schools to talk about National Engineering Week, and one little boy said, ‘You can’t be an engineer. You’re a girl.’ And my seven-year-old said, ‘Where did you get a bonehead idea like that?’ So there’s hope.”
Here Are the Engineers We Interviewed for this Story
Janice T. Abel is director, marketing for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries for Foxboro, Invensys Process Systems. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Clark University, Worcester, Mass., and a master of science degree in chemical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Mass.
Alicia Bauer is director of global marketing, control systems and products for ABB. She holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind.
Diana Bouchard, a freelance technical writer and editor, formerly with formerly of the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada (Paprican), holds degrees in mathematics and computer science from McGill University, Montreal.
Kim Miller Dunn is director of sales development and support with Emerson Process Management. She will take over as the president of ISA in 2008. She has a degree in chemical engineering form California State University, Long Beach.
Tina Lockhart is director of engineering at Moore Industries. She has a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Brunel University in the U.K.
Dr. Bianca Scholten is a partner at Ordina Technical Automation, Rosmalen, Netherlands. She is the author of The Road to Integration – A Guide to Applying the ISA 95 Standard in Manufacturing. She has a degree in art history for the University of Utrecht.
Dawn Schweitzer, a control systems engineer and engineering management specialist at Eastman Kodak, holds a degree in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic University, Troy, N.Y. She also serves on the Control editorial advisory board.
Dr. Angela Summers, PE, is president of her own company, SIS-Tech. She is a specialist in industrial safety. She holds a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Mississippi State University, a master of science degree in environmental engineering from Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Ala. She is a recipient of the 2005 ISA Albert F. Sperry Award and this year was inducted into the Control Process Automation Hall of Fame.
Sandra Vann is a technology specialist at the Dow Latex Technology Center in Midland, Mich. She has a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Kathleen Waters is the principal engineer at biotech company Genentech, San Francisco. She has a master’s degree in chemical engineering. She is current the vice chairperson on the ISA S88 standards committee. In 2006, she was the first woman inducted into the Control Process Automation Hall of Fame.
Joy Weiss is president and CEO at Dust Networks. She is a past president and general manager of Nortel’s Network Management division, past president and CEO of Esker Software and of microdisplay vendor Inviso. She holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT.
Shari Worthington, president of Telesian Technology, holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from St. Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y., a master’s degree in psychology from Framingham State College, Framingham, Mass., and an MBA from Babson College, Babson Park, Mass. She is the co-author of e-Business in Manufacturing: Putting the Internet to Work in the Industrial Enterprise.