You are here: Home / News Release Archives / 2014 / February / Further Gender Integration in Science and Engineering Could Spark Innovation

Further Gender Integration in Science and Engineering Could Spark Innovation

Recent research from the Penn State Smeal College of Business finds that women’s expertise may be underutilized in science and engineering teams, leading to teams performing at less than optimal levels of productivity.
February 13, 2014

Aparna Joshi
Aparna Joshi

Recent research from the Penn State Smeal College of Business finds that women’s expertise may be underutilized in science and engineering teams, leading to teams performing at less than optimal levels of productivity.

A paper by Associate Professor of Management and Organization Aparna Joshi concludes that greater gender equity and integration in traditionally male-dominated fields will not only increase parity of women in those fields but also foster greater productivity and innovation within teams.

“[T]he rationale for fostering greater gender equity and integration goes beyond ensuring equal employment opportunity for men and women to accelerating scientific productivity and innovation within teams,” Joshi writes in her paper “By Whom and When is Women's Expertise Recognized? The Interactive Effects of Gender and Education in Science and Engineering Teams.” “[I]n order to fully utilize diverse expertise and maximize productivity and innovation in teams, it is vital to enhance gender diversity within teams and across the disciplines in which these teams are embedded.”

“[I]n order to fully utilize diverse expertise and maximize productivity and innovation in teams, it is vital to enhance gender diversity within teams and across the disciplines in which these teams are embedded.”

According to information from the National Science Foundation, Joshi writes, “Since 2000, women have steadily earned more science and engineering bachelor’s degrees than men, and almost half the master’s degrees earned across the field are being awarded to women.”

But female scientists and engineers are still significantly outnumbered in corporate management roles and faculty positions at research universities, and they are earning less money. Those advances in education have not yet translated to advancement in the workplace.

Joshi posits that the disconnect lies in team members’ inability to accurately perceive expertise. After examining data collected from science and engineering teams, Joshi found a tendency among male and female team members to perceive the expertise of their fellow female members at a lower level than their male counterparts, despite the level of education those women had achieved.

Men who identified more with their own gender valued highly educated women’s expertise less than they valued their male team members’ expertise. More importantly, these men valued less educated women more than they valued their highly educated female counterparts.

Team members’ perceptions of their colleagues’ expertise is critical to the functioning of the team and all its members, because those perceived as experts are offered more opportunities to perform and to lead.

“If attributes, such as educational level, contribute relatively little to the evaluations of women’s expertise, then it is unlikely that any gains women make in their human capital can mitigate gender differences in employment outcomes,” writes Joshi.

“If attributes, such as educational level, contribute relatively little to the evaluations of women’s expertise, then it is unlikely that any gains women make in their human capital can mitigate gender differences in employment outcomes.”

Joshi also found that the expertise of highly educated women is more highly utilized in teams with more women, and that teams with more highly-educated women are more productive in disciplines that have greater female representation.

“[I]n a gender-integrated discipline such as civil engineering, highly educated and technically skilled female civil engineers are visible to team members and represent women’s success and abilities in this domain,” writes Joshi. “In this context, team members are unlikely to perceive female team members as less qualified than men and more likely to accept their inputs in achieving the team’s tasks and goals.”

Joshi’s research focuses on multilevel issues in workplace diversity, gender issues in science and engineering, collaboration in global and distributed teams, generational issues in the workplace, and international and cross-cultural management. Her paper, “By Whom and When is Women’s Expertise Recognized? The Interactive Effects of Gender and Education in Science and Engineering Teams,” is forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly.

Recent News
Smeal's Multimedia Team Recognized for Providing Valuable Student Service 24 Jul

A group of Smeal College of Business staff members were recently recognized for their efforts to provide students with professional portraits for their LinkedIn profiles. The Penn State Information Technology Resource Responsibility award was granted to the Resource, Instruction, and Information Technology (RIIT) Group’s Multimedia Team.

Company Looks to Penn State Smeal for Next Generation Supply Chain Talent 23 Jul

The Penn State Smeal College of Business is one of only two schools from which Burlington Stores, a national off-price retailer headquartered in New Jersey, actively recruits for its Supply Chain Leader Development Program. This leadership program for supply chain graduates is an 18-month program that introduces new graduates to the various roles and responsibilities of leadership at the company.

Management and Organization's Gioia Reflects on GM Crisis 11 Jul

When GM began recalling vehicles in February because of an ignition-switch problem, the situation brought back early career memories for Denny Gioia. Currently, the Robert and Judith Klein Professor of Management and chair of the Department of Management and Organization at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, Gioia once worked as recall coordinator for Ford Motor Company.

Inaugural Executive MBA Leadership Forum Addresses Issues in Health Care 09 Jul

Early last month, the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program hosted its inaugural Senior Leadership Forum, an opportunity for current and prospective students as well as program alumni to come together to discuss business and leadership.

Ghadar's Recent Book on Immigration's Benefits Garners Media Attention 08 Jul

Becoming American: Why Immigration is Good for Our Nation’s Future, authored by Penn State Smeal College of Business’ William A. Schreyer Professor of Global Management, Policies, and Planning Fariborz Ghadar, has garnered much media attention since its release in March of this year.

More Recent News... More Recent News...