Give Up on Girl Engineers, Psychologist Says 12

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
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A leading British psychologist claims efforts to produce more female engineers are misguided and pointless.

Dr Gijsberg Stoet, a reader in psychology at Glasgow University, argues that efforts by encourage more young women to enter the engineering profession are futile and should be abandoned.

Addressing the British Education Studies Association in Glasgow, Stoet said education authorities “probably needed to give up on the idea that we will get many female engineers or male nurses,” on the grounds that innate biological difference make each sex better or worse suited to certain professions.

Stoet believes it will be “really hard” to whet widespread enthusiasm for subjects such as engineering amongst female students, as they are naturally inclined to find these topic areas dull.

“Girls will say, ‘Well that’s boring, I’m just not interested in it,'” said Stoet. “We need to have a national debate on why we find it so important to have equal numbers.”

According to Stoet, money used to encourage students to choose a certain profession or field of study was sure to be misspent, because individuals are automatically drawn to those subjects for which they possess a strong aptitude.

Stoet said it would be preferable for gender disparities in professions such as engineering to persist if it means that those women who enter the field do so because of native inclination and find their careers genuinely satisfying.

“What is better? To have 50 per cent of female engineers who do not really like their work but say, ‘Yeah, well, I did it for the feminist cause.’ Or do you want three per cent of female engineers to say ‘I really like my job?” said Stoet.

Stoet’s remarks arrive amidst concerted measures by educators and engineers in both the UK and Australia to attract more women to a profession which is notorious for being heavily male-dominated.

In Australia at least, these efforts have achieved significant results, with nearly a quarter of engineering undergraduates at the University of Queensland now women following the launch of the Women in Engineering initiative.

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  1. Catherine Harwood, P.Eng.

    I struggled to find any reference to scientific or factual reasons for the statements in this article. I can't think what they might be. I do believe that if the author truly understood the engineering profession (and also the nursing one), they would realize that the engineering profession is superbly suited to women as well as men. I am an engineer but at 17 I didn't know anything about the profession. I enrolled because I love math, science and challenges. I have now been a licensed engineer for nearly 20 years, and this profession has given me opportunities to work with fantastic, mutli-faceted teams, to learn managerial skills, to travel, to volunteer and to contribute to society by building and maintaining infrastructure.

  2. Nicole Martel

    Woohoo Catherine – great response!

  3. Luke Anglicas

    That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever read. Some of the best engineers I work with are female and they are good because they love their work and therefore pay attention. As Catherine Harwood questioned, where is the research to support the statement…or is it just an old man's opinion. It seems like this 'leading' British psychologist's ideas are far outdated.

  4. gordon

    well tick that's 1 girl
    need another 2 to get to 3%

  5. carama Mizin

    This article , the author, hmmmm think you should have spend some more time researching your article, it's rubbish., I work in Telco industryand there are plenty of women who are Engineers.

  6. neil knowles

    A clear majority of structural engineers in Jordan are female. (could not find references for this but i've been there for construction work many times). Apparently something to do with "homebuilding" being taken rather literally. This person is talking rubbish.

  7. Laurice Temple

    This is an "interesting" article….and one that is an "easy way out" of the discussion. I'm not sure why we would consider one persons opinion as "news". As a woman engineer, and as the CEO of NAWIC, I scoff at Stoet's remarks. I've wasted my time reading the article.

  8. Sonja Breuer

    The choice should be made by the ladies, one cannot predict regret for them, that would be preposterous.
    Should they really want to contribute to the feminist cause this way then so be it.
    Just imagine, by the time they realise they want to change career they will be able to take their engineering knowledge with them and by combining it with their female skills, are able to change the world we live in.
    No generation before has been able to do this!

  9. Tracey

    Another female engineer who thinks this is a ridiculous article. I enrolled in engineering as mature age student because when I was 17, I wasn't even aware of engineering as profession. I don't think females are not choosing engineering because they think "Well that’s boring, I’m just not interested in it", perhaps they're steered into thinking about other career paths from a very young age. I have a son and a daughter and people will buy my son presents such as Lego or other construction toys, and will buy my daughter pretty clothes, dolls, tea sets, etc. These messages from society, and the fact that girls don't see many female engineers around, work to prevent girls from choosing engineering.

  10. Elizabeth Coe

    Oh dear, why isn't this article provided with a better heading? Why not say "People should be encouraged to do jobs they are interested in"?

    I can only echo the comments of my fellow female & male engineers in response to this article. What we suffer from are the lazy headlines by subeditors who have no idea what other people do!

    I have loved being an engineer for over 35 years, although, like every job, it is not without its frustrations .

    My three sons who were encouraged to do jobs they enjoyed are a) a gifted intensive care nurse b) an IT guru for a world-wide sales / call centre company, and c) a gardener. They all love their jobs and are good at them.

    Gender should not define your professional destiny!

  11. Vijaya V

    This is truly absurd and ridiculous.The on-going efforts to attract more female engineers is to create an awareness and build confidence in women that they too are capable of creating something creative and innovative . A lot of girls are surrounded by a notion that engineering is for males while, sciences are for females. Tbh, many girls think that engineering jobs are physical and dirty hands on jobs. The point here is not to maintain a gender equality but we need to break away that pre-noted beliefs and let females explore more fields and help create opportunities for themselves.

  12. Lachlan

    OK, shoot me down, but I think there might be merit in reading the article and using the findings to address the issue at the root. Pointing out that there are female engineers does not make Stoet's claim wrong automatically. Could there be truth to the possibility that some people are choosing particular careers to make a political point? Probably. Do most women incline towards non-engineering careers? Almost definitely. As someone with over 30 years in engineering including recruiting many, I see that females tend to be attracted to the more noble aspects of the profession i.e. they like to know that they are making the world a better place. I feel to bring more women into engineering, emphasising the "meaning" behind the career may bring results.