The Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) newest study reveals specific gender and racial biases faced within engineering, providing first-hand accounts about how implicit bias plays out in the profession. Implicit or unconscious bias can have a negative impact on workplace climate, affecting decisions in hiring, promotions, and compensation, the group said.
Climate Control: Gender and Racial Bias in Engineering focused on four basic patterns of bias. Nearly one-third of respondents to the study offered comments, many of which provided examples of bias they’ve experienced first-hand. Results of the study suggest the workplace climate is tougher for women and people of color than it is for white men.
“The most surprising thing about the study was the flood of comments we received at the end of the survey,” Joan C. Williams, distinguished professor of law at the University of California and founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law, said in a statement. “Our findings confirmed decades of research and allowed us to examine whether what’s been reported in social psychology labs goes on in actual workplaces. Often it does.”
More than 3000 professionals with at least two years’ experience as engineers or engineering technicians completed the survey. Respondents were asked questions relating to four basic patterns of implicit bias: Prove-It-Again, Tightrope, Maternal Wall and Tug of War. Questions were also asked to gain insight into implicit bias in hiring, promotions, performance evaluations, access to networking and mentoring and compensation. Comparisons were made by comparing the answers of women and engineers of color with those of white men.
Among the respondents, women and people of color were more likely than white men to report that they felt the need to prove themselves more to get the same levels of respect and recognition as their colleagues. White men were more likely than women and people of color to report that they could behave assertively in the workplace without pushback.
“I raised my voice during a meeting and I was reprimanded for getting emotional. But two male leaders…get into a yelling match in the same meeting and it’s no big deal,” said a Latina woman survey respondent.
The survey found that women and engineers of color were more likely than white men to report doing more “office housework” such as finding a time everyone can meet, taking notes and planning office parties.
“Just last year they hired a new female and one of the managers was telling me how happy they were about hiring her because she really clean(s) up after the guys and keeps the lab tidy,” said a white woman survey respondent.
Women and people of color also reported less access to desirable assignments and that they had more trouble gaining access to formal and informal networking opportunities than their white male colleagues.
Women with children were less likely than white men with children to report that having children did not change their colleagues’ perceptions of their work commitment or competence.
“My colleagues assume I am a slacker because I have children, even when I come in evenings or weekends to make up time that I have to miss due to my children,” said an African American woman survey respondent.
Some of the other topics covered within the survey included thoughts on the fairness of performance evaluations and access to advancement opportunities and promotions. Overall, the data reveals that white men face fewer obstacles in the engineering workforce than women and people of color.
Climate Control: Gender and Racial Bias in Engineering follows a similar study conducted by SWE focusing on culture within the engineering workplace and differences between male and female personal and workplace priorities, including the gaps that are driving female attrition.
“Both of SWE’s recent studies on gender and racial bias and culture within the workplace confirm many of the insights we already know—women and people of color struggle to gain distinction within the engineering space which is very much still dominated by men,” Karen Horting, CEO and executive director at SWE, said in the statement. “What we hope to achieve with this research is to encourage more dialog on the topic of implicit bias and inspire and drive change in the engineering profession.”
HOUSTEX Kicks Off AMT-SME Co-Branded Trade Shows
HOUSTEX (Feb. 28–March 2, 2017; Houston) kicks off a partnership between between the Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT; McLean, VA) and SME (Dearborn, MI) covering co-branded trade shows.
The partnership was announced in September at IMTS 2016. Also part of the partnership are the EASTEC (May 16–18, 2017; West Springfield, MA), WESTEC (Sept. 12–14, 2017; Los Angeles) SOUTH-TEC (Oct. 24–26, 2017; Greenville, SC) and Mfg4 (May 8–10, 2018; Hartford, CT) events.
The shows will feature a blend of education, applications and technology innovation in the areas of digital manufacturing, automation, MTConnect and the Industrial IoT. Each event will include a mix of topics and technologies that are of specific interest to that region.
“SME and AMT are each bringing their unique strengths to this collaboration, which will provide our members and the manufacturing industry at large with innovative, best-in-class events to drive business success,” AMT President Douglas K. Woods said in a statement. “We look forward to exciting developments as our partnership grows.”
SME and AMT first partnered on an event-related agreement in 1989. The idea was to pull together both organizations’ resources to develop forums where manufacturers could see the latest technologies in their own regions of the US.
“SME and AMT are an excellent pairing, representing the individuals and companies that are the end-users and builders of manufacturing technology,” said SME Chief Executive Officer Jeff Krause. “Together, our organizations represent the manufacturing marketplace.”
The 2017–18 events will benefit from the cooperation and collaboration of AMT and SME. Some updates could potentially include: innovative new learning opportunities, new interactive exhibits and more ways for attendees and exhibitors to connect and collaborate.
“The dynamic of manufacturing is changing dramatically, and manufacturers are demanding the latest and most innovative events and solutions available,” said Peter Eelman, AMT vice president of exhibitions and business development. “The combination of AMT and SME will bring those solutions to a wider audience. We are excited about future possibilities as the industry evolves and the events evolve along with it.”
“Events are the live platform that drives collaboration,” said Vice President of SME Events and Industry Strategy Debbie Holton. “As two of the largest producers of manufacturing events in North America, SME and AMT provide regional venues that manufacturing professionals rely on to see the latest technology and create business opportunities.”
Manufacturing Expands Again
The US manufacturing economy expanded for a second straight month in October, as new orders, output and employment all showed growth, the Institute for Supply Management (Tempe, AZ) said in a monthly report.
The group said its PMI, which measures economic activity in manufacturing, was 51.9% that month, an improvement from 51.5% in September.
The ISM report is based on a survey of purchasing and supply executives. A reading above 50% indicates expansion and below 50% contraction.
October was the seventh month of 2016 with a PMI above 50%. The October PMI also was better than the 12-month average of 50.6%, or barely in positive territory.
Ten of 18 industries reported growth in October. They included textiles, miscellaneous manufacturing, furniture and petroleum and coal products. Eight contracted economically, including wood products, primary metals, transportation equipment, fabricated metal products and machinery.
The industry breakdown is in line with other economic indicators. Automotive and aerospace, long the best performers in manufacturing, have shown signs of weakening.
NIST Launches Smart Manufacturing Test Bed
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST; Gaithersburg, MD) on Oct. 7 launched the new Smart Manufacturing Systems (SMS) Test Bed aimed at advanced manufacturing technology for current and future smart factories.
NIST’s SMS test bed is a model factory that will facilitate advanced technologies that employ the “digital thread” that will help manufacturers cut costs, shorten manufacturing production times, reduce errors and provide higher-quality goods.
“The SMS Test Bed joins the many resources NIST offers to help US manufacturers drive innovation and compete in a global market,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Willie E. May, in a statement.
Manufacturing has used 2D drawings, or blueprints, in either print form, CAD plans, or a combination of both to guide a product through its lifecycle. Because these methods require humans to interpret, translate, re-enter and transmit data at each step in the process, there can be significant expenditures of time and money, as well as multiple opportunities for errors to occur. In spite of the disadvantages, 90% of small manufacturers still rely on traditional 2D methods to make products.
The digital thread relies on standardized 3D models for electronically exchanging and processing product and manufacturing information all the way from design through inspection of the final part. Researchers estimate that moving manufacturing from 2D paper-based systems to 3D digital manufacturing could cut production time by as much as 75%, according to NIST researchers.
The test bed consists of:
- A computer-aided technologies laboratory with a suite of standardized software tools for controlling design, fabrication, inspection, data management, and verification and validation testing.
- A real-world manufacturing facility at NIST’s headquarters, featuring a variety of CNC machine tools (such as milling and turning centers) and precision inspection devices (such as CMMs and digital micrometers).
- Online data streaming, collection, storage and publication services that provide real-time, universally compatible data links for experimenting with the digital manufacturing process; a searchable repository of all SMS Test Bed data generated; and preset data packages for model products previously fabricated using the digital thread that manufacturers can try at their own facilities.
Tebis Has New Distributor in Mexico
Tebis America (Troy, MI), a software company specializing in CAD/CAM systems, named Software y Aplicaciones CNC S.A. de C.V. as a distributor in Mexico. The announcement was made by David Klotz, Tebis America CEO and president.
“The appointment of a distributor in Mexico is another step in our continued growth plan,” Klotz said in a statement. “Mexico is rich in manufacturing and Software y Aplicaciones will provide customers and prospects in the area with hands-on sales and service in a timely fashion.”
PMT Updates Quality Lab
Plastic Molding Technology Inc. (PMT; El Paso, TX) completed a multi-phase renovation with a newly minted Quality Lab, expanding into the remainder of its 60,000 ft² (5574 m²) building to support operations and new business growth.
The last phase of the year-long renovation was the Quality Lab, which was upgraded to an area about three times the size of its former space.
“PMT is regarded for having a strong commitment to quality, so it was time to have the lab better reflect its function,” Martin Rubio, quality manager at PMT, said in a statement.
Edited by Senior Editor Bill Koenig.
This article was first published in the December 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read “SWE Study Examines Gender, Racial Bias” as a PDF.