What women engineers want

Sept. 15, 2014
The few. The proud. The women on your engineering team. CONTROL Managing Editor Nancy Bartels interviews successful women engineers working as CEOs, entrepreneurs, team leaders and industry authors.
Sigmund Freud famously demanded to know what women wanted, as though it were some vast secret of the universe. For women engineers at least, the demands are neither mysterious nor complicated.

The “ladies” of the engineering club we interviewed want the following things in their professional lives.

  • To be treated with respect as the professionals they are—just like other engineers.
  • To be given the chance to prove themselves—just like other engineers.
  • To have their thinking processes accepted. Women and men do think differently. The answers in the end may be the same, but men and women will arrive at them via different routes—and that’s not a bad thing. 
  • To be included—in casual conversations, at the lunch table, on the golf outing, in short, to be treated as peers and part of the team.
  • To be mentored. Having an “old hand” show them the ropes, help them break their company’s unique cultural code, point out professional pitfalls and dangers, challenge them with new opportunities, and sometimes advocate for them can be enormously helpful, not just to the new engineer, but to the recently promoted one. Note: This is equally important for men.
  • To be encouraged. Professional women may be a bit prone to self-doubt, even after years on the job. A bit of encouragement from peers can go a long way to stifle that tendency to over-question.
  • To not be overlooked. If women engineers have a professional failing, it may be not engaging in healthy self-promotion. Just because she doesn’t make a point of speaking up for herself doesn’t mean that the woman on your team doesn’t have some great ideas.

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