Cultural Diversity, Diversity Conferences


New AIChE program focuses on women engineers’ retention and re-entry

New York, NY – The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) has announced a new initiative, Women’s Workplace Retention and Re-entry (W2R2), addressing the issues of women’s career navigation, work-life integration, and professional development. The project will debut with a special session on November 17 during AIChE’s 2014 annual meeting in Atlanta, GA.

The impetus was a 2012 report, “Stemming the Tide: Why Women Leave Engineering” by Dr Nadya Fouad, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for the Study of the Workplace. According to the report, women are more than 20 percent of engineering school graduates, but only 11 percent of practicing engineers are women, despite decades of academic, governmental and employer efforts to close the gender gap. Women leave engineering for many reasons, including dissatisfaction with workplace culture for women engineers, inflexible work schedules that impact family responsibilities, and the persistent pay gap between similarly qualified male and female engineers.

Organized by AIChE’s Societal Impact Operating Council, W2R2 is designed to help women engineers take control of their work lives. The session will kick off with a luncheon featuring a keynote talk by Fouad, who is an expert on the work choices of women and underrepresented minorities in the engineering workplace.

Fouad will also join a panel discussion including representatives from several women’s and professional organizations, who will discuss how employers address women’s recruitment, retention and re-entry. Roundtable discussions will give participants a chance to discuss their own workplace experiences and employment strategies, with topics ranging from career change to flexible work schedules to arranging temporary absences from the workplace. The feedback received during the session will lay the foundation for a plan to help AIChE and employers better support women engineers on issues related to workplace retention and re-entry.

W2R2’s organizers note that the competitiveness of today’s employers depends upon their ability to accommodate the changing needs of the workforce. “Women must work together with their employers to create the kind of workforce infrastructure that will allow them to make much-needed contributions to a global society facing significant challenges,” says Zenaida Otero Gephardt, chair of the AIChE societal impact council. “We simply cannot afford to exclude the contributions women engineers can and want to make.”

To find out more about W2R2 or to contribute to discussions about women in engineering, contact either of the W2R2 session co-chairs, Selma Mededovic at or Zenaida Otero Gephardt at


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