Women fleeing science, tech jobs in drovesNews added by Benefits Pro on March 7, 2014

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By Allen Greenberg

The push to recruit more women into science, engineering and technology (SET) jobs has seen a measure of success in recent years but “hostile macho cultures” make retention an altogether different matter.

“Women in SET are marginalized by lab-coat, hard-hat, and geek workplace cultures that are often exclusionary and promulgate bias,” the Center for Talent Innovation said in a recently released report.

The research think tank said that U.S. women working in SET are 45 percent more likely than their male counterparts to leave the industry within a year.

Moreover, a good chunk of executives in these fields (31 percent in the U.S., 22 percent in Brazil, 51 percent in China and 57 percent in India) report that a woman would never get a top position at their company, no matter how able or high performing, the report said.

Women have historically been underrepresented in high-tech fields, though that is changing. The Obama administration has tried to help with a campaign aimed at attracting more women into these jobs. Federal statistics show that women in the SET field earn 33 percent more than those in non-SET occupations and experience a smaller wage gap relative to men.

“The good news,” CTI said in its report, “(is that) the pipeline of global female talent in SET remains rich and deep, with women being the majority of SET college graduates in many key geographies. “However, a sizable proportion say they feel stalled and say they are likely to quit their jobs within a year.”

Here’s what CTI had to say about the reasons women are “languishing in the middle-rungs of their organizations and planning to leave the industry”:

Isolation. SET women no longer find themselves the sole female on a team or at a site. Yet they still feel excluded from informal “buddy” networks among their peers and lack female role models (33 percent of women in SET in the U.S., 22 percent in Brazil, 18 percent in China, and 53 percent in India).

Bias in training and performance evaluation. Seventy-two percent of women in the U.S., 78 percent in Brazil, 68 percent in China and 81 percent in India perceive bias in performance evaluations.

Struggles to conform to biased standards of executive presence. SET women struggle to decipher and embody leadership attributes, and receive little useful feedback to correct this perception.

Some SET companies have launched initiatives to address the problem. The report highlights initiatives from organizations like American Express, Boehringer Ingelheim and BP that can be used as templates for other organizations working to strengthen and promote top female talent.

“Across the globe, there is high demand for top SET talent but short supply. Women are central to the solution as they comprise nearly half of the SET talent pipeline worldwide,” said Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founder and president of CTI. “The success of our global economy depends on our ability to develop and leverage our high-performing women.”

CTI produced a similar report in 2008 that also found women were leaving these fields. Its latest survey sampled 5,685 college-educated adults with experience in a private-sector science, engineering or technology company; 2,349 of the respondents were women.

To view the report findings, go to www.talentinnovation.org.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com
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