Gender Wage Gap in Engineering Driven by Professional Culture

The gender wage gap in engineering is caused by cultural ideologies in the engineering profession according to research by Rice University Assistant Professor Erin Cech, Ph.D.

The report was published by Oxford University Press in partnership with the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and first appeared in Social Forces, a leading social research journal.

In her research, Cech found that the gender pay gap in engineering is greatest in more “technical” engineering positions and smaller in the more “social” engineering positions. Furthermore, only 12% of engineers are women and even fewer women are employed in those more technical engineering positions such as mechanical engineering where just 7% of workers are women.

It’s important to point out that the gender gap in pay and positions comes from a cultural ideology in the engineering field that Cech identifies as “engineering’s technical/social dualism.” She explains that there is a clear distinction between “technical” and “social” engineering subfields and work activities, and the professional culture that exists in the engineering field perpetuates this dualism.

In fact, the dualism begins in college when engineers learn to draw strong lines between ‘people-focused’ versus ‘technology-focused’ activities. Cech says, “Such dualisms are false representations of engineering in practice, as engineers’ work necessarily involves technical and social activities simultaneously.”

Ultimately, Cech believes the engineering profession is perfect to study the effects of cultural ideologies and the gender wage gap. She explains, “This [report] demonstrates the importance of understanding how professional cultures contribute to inequality within professions. Professional cultures serve as a touchstone for judgments of professional competence, excellence, and fit, yet such cultures are largely ignored in current inequality literature.”

You can get more details in the Rice University press release or by following the link above to the Social Forces website.

Susan Gunelius

Susan Gunelius is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Women on Business. She is a 20-year veteran of the marketing field and has authored ten books about marketing, branding, and social media, including the highly popular 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing for Dummies, Blogging All-in-One for Dummies and Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps. Susan’s marketing-related content can be found on,,,, and more. Susan is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She has worked in corporate marketing roles and through client relationships with AT&T, HSBC, Citibank, Intuit, The New York Times, Cox Communications, and many more large and small companies around the world. Susan also speaks about marketing, branding and social media at events around the world and is frequently interviewed by television, online, radio, and print media organizations about these topics. She holds an MBA in Management and Strategy and a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing.

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