The Future of Engineering: Advancing Diversity

Engineering is about progress: working toward a brighter future. And in so many ways, the industry reflects these ideals. Every year, there seems to be a technological advancement that makes the world stop and stare. Yet there’s one area in which engineering has fallen behind others: diversity and inclusivity.

We’re here to look at diversity in engineering and why it’s vital (and past time) for the industry to become more inclusive. Because gender, race and ethnicity aren’t bugs; they’re features.

The State of Diversity in Engineering

Women have made incredible contributions to engineering yet remain underrepresented in the field. According to the New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers, women comprise only about 13% of the engineering workforce. That’s despite women accounting for nearly half (46.6%) of the U.S. workforce.

The same goes for Black and Hispanic engineers, who are underrepresented across the STEM fields. Black and Hispanic Americans make up 11% and 17% of the national workforce, respectively, yet comprise just a respective 5% and 9% of the engineering workforce.

Systemic Barriers

In a perfect world, the percentage of women and minorities in engineering would more closely reflect their participation within the workforce. Why, then, are these groups underrepresented in engineering?

Reasons range from a lack of encouragement to pursue STEM subjects from an early age to discrimination in recruitment, hiring and promotions. The percentage of women and minorities in STEM disciplines has risen over the last few decades. Still, more can be done.

Somewhere out there is an engineering prodigy who was discouraged from entering the field because of their gender, race or ethnicity. And that’s a shame. Not only was this individual robbed of an opportunity, but the industry was also robbed of their unique perspective.

Why Diversity in Engineering Is Important

Engineering firms have a moral obligation to promote inclusivity and diversity. That much is obvious. There are, however, numerous advantages to hiring a diverse engineering staff. It’s an effective strategy for engineering firms interested in earning goodwill and maintaining a competitive edge.

Realize Engineering Dreams

The most important reason to promote diversity and inclusion — right behind fairness and general human decency — is that it affects the quality of engineering. There are consequences for a lack of diversity in engineering: designs not thought of, solutions not produced and dreams not realized.

Find a Novel Approach

Capable and innovative, diverse teams are adept at finding novel solutions. Mechanical engineer and STEM education advocate Gwendolyn Boyd summed it up perfectly when she said, “The quality of a team is absolutely dependent on the diversity of thought available to it. If everyone went to the same school and got the same training and thought the same way, then all of our widgets would look the same.”

Everyone on a diverse and inclusive team has a chance to be heard. Consequently, members of diverse teams are more motivated, empowered and satisfied, leading to fresh ideas — not to mention reduced employee turnover.

Succeed as a Company

The above-mentioned benefits lead to one incredible advantage: success. According to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, businesses that were ethnically and culturally diverse outperformed other businesses by as much as 36%. No matter how you look at it, diversity pays.

Change the Narrative. Apply to the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Engineering is not yet a bastion of diversity. Slowly but surely, however, progress is being made, and the steps engineering companies take in service of equity and inclusion will determine which ones thrive and which don’t.

If you’re interested in becoming a part of the next generation of engineers, a generation of marked by diversity, inclusion and excellence, there’s no better place to start than the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

UW–Madison strives to embrace and celebrate diverse backgrounds, abilities and identities across races, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses and beyond. By fostering an inclusive classroom, we aim to change the engineering landscape, and in doing so, change the world.

Our Online Engineering Programs

UW–Madison has an online program for you, regardless of the corner of engineering you want to make your own. A few of the online engineering programs we offer include:

Made for professionals of all levels, our online programs provide the flexibility you need to excel in an online learning environment and get the top-quality engineering education you need to advance your career.

What can we say? There’s no keeping a Badger down.

To learn more about what UW–Madison can offer you, click here to register for an upcoming information session or watch any archived sessions. If you’re ready, apply now and become the change you want to see in the field of engineering.