Research & Best Practices


The following reports, papers and sources represent a selection of recent research into the factors that affect recruitment, retention and advancement of SETT women. In addition, there are resources that cover effective practices to increase the numbers, career success and leadership of women in these fields. See also Publications.


Stemming the Tide: Why Women Leave Engineering

This 2011 paper by Fouad and Singh documented results of surveys of 3700 US female engineers, summarizing the reasons women leave, and stay, in engineering careers.

What’s So Special about STEM? A Comparison of Women’s Retention in STEM and Professional Occupations

A 2013 paper by Glass et al. comparing the trajectories of women in STEM-related occupations to other professional occupations showed that women in STEM occupations are significantly more likely to leave their occupational field than professional women, especially early in their career.

Climbing the Technical Ladder Solutions to Recruit Technical Women; Women Technologists Count; Recommendations and Best Practices to Retain Women in Computing

The Anita Borg Institute produced several reports in 2013, documenting factors affecting career success and advancement, along with promising practices to recruit and retain women in computing.

Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers

This 2013 Harvard Business Review article by Ibarra et al. examines the slow progress of women into leadership roles and proposes actions to support women’s access to leadership positions – educating women and men about second-generation gender bias, creating safe “identity workspaces” to support transitions to bigger roles, and anchoring women’s development efforts in a sense of leadership purpose.

Women in Leadership: Perceptions and Priorities for Change

This 2013 Conference Board of Canada document looks at how perceptions have and have not changed, and how organizations can best enable top female talent to reach senior management positions.

Pipeline’s Broken Promise

This 2010 Catalyst report found that among recent MBA graduates, women lag men in advancement and compensation from their very first professional jobs and are less satisfied with their careers overall.

Exploring the Career Pipeline: Gender Differences in Pre-Career Expectations

Female university graduates expect to make a lot less money than their male counterparts [12.5% less in initial job for science and engineering grads], according to a study of 23,000 Canadian university students reported in 2011 by Schweitzer Lyons, and Ng.

Mining for Diversity: An Employer’s Guide to Attract, Recruit and Retain a Diverse Workforce

The Mining Industry Human Resources Council’s 2008 report summarizes industry practices and tools for attracting, recruiting, and retaining talent from diverse target groups. In these pages, you will find a specific focus on women, new Canadians, youth, mature workers, and workers from other industries.

The Pathway Forward: Creating Gender Inclusive Leadership in Mining and Resources

In 2012, the Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership at Carleton University examined the literature and interviewed participants in the sector to identify barriers and suggest a holistic approach in applying strategies for success.

High-Potential Employees in the Pipeline: Maximizing the Talent Pool in Canadian Organizations

This 2013 Catalyst report examines factors that influence career success of men and women in Canadian organizations and how to retain top talent.

Athena 2.0: Accelerating Female Talent in Science, Engineering and Technology

In this 2014 report Hewlett et al. revisit the SET landscape to determine what has changed for women for the better (since their 2008 report below), and to offer solutions for what has resisted change.

Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success

This oft-cited 2005 study reports on the extent of the problem of possible attrition–what percentage of highly qualified women leave work and for how long, what obstacles they face coming back, and what price they pay for their time-outs. Off-Ramps and On-Ramps provides a proven road map to help companies stop the female brain drain, and to help women achieve their full potential with rewarding and balanced lives.

The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology

Forty-one percent of highly qualified scientists, engineers, and technologists on the lower rungs of corporate career ladders are female. But more than half (52%) drop out. It found 5 powerful “antigens” in corporate cultures. This important 2008 study features company initiatives that address this female brain drain.

Going the Distance – Best Practices and Strategies for Retaining Engineering, Engineering Technology and Computing Students

This 2013 American Society for Engineering Education report describes and summarizes effective practices from 60 US universities and colleges to retain students in technical programs.

How to Recruit Women and Girls to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Classroom

Donna Milgram describes strategies for high school and post-secondary educators in this 2011 paper.

Moving Forward Together – Report of the CCWESTT Policy Forum

This report summarizes the 2012 Policy Forum co-organized by CCWESTT and Status of Women Canada. The focus of the forum was on the experiences of women engaged in SETT fields and on the policies, programs and practices affecting their participation. Its goal was to inspire a partnership approach to increasing the participation of women in SETT, by moving forward together, from insight to action.

On the Level: Women Working in Trades and Technology; Women in the Aerospace Industry – Employer’s guides to creating respectful workplaces

The Hypatia Association produced two guides in 2009 to support employers seeking to hire diverse women in trades and technology. They present field-tested approaches to the creation and sustainability of welcoming, safe and respectful workplaces.

In the Picture…a future with women in science, trades and technology

The Hypatia Association produced three guides in 2004 for NS employers and they include research summaries, findings from focus groups and action oriented strategies for change.

The State of Women in Construction

Despite successful initiatives to increase the numbers of women in the construction industry, the rate of their participation, particularly in the trades and onsite construction management, has not grown significantly over time. This 2010 study examines the barriers, as well as good practices that could be implemented to overcome them.

SWE Literature Reviews

Each year, the Society of Women Engineers publishes an annual review of social science and related literature. Contributing both a bibliography and authoritative analysis to the body of knowledge concerning women in engineering, and more generally, the STEM professions, these reviews offer a single source from which to view the most significant findings and insight into research trends.

WEPAN Knowledge Center

Women in Engineering Proactive Network hosts a free on-line centre that provides access to searchable, catalogued and fully cited information resources including research reports, data and statistics, papers, bibliographies, best practices, key programs, conference proceedings, webinars and more.

Becoming Leaders: A Practical Handbook for Women in Engineering, Science and Technology

This international best-seller presents important information, tips and strategies to support career success and leadership development in technical women. Professionals and university students alike will benefit from the advice based on the first-hand experiences of women engineers and scientists.

Gender Diversity 101 Brochures

These brochures were researched and created by Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WWEST), and published from 2013 to 2015. The WinSETT Centre has co-branded with WWEST to share them.

Gender Diversity in STEM

WESTT’s Rebekah Parker, Jennifer Pelletier and Elizabeth Croft published a new book in December 2015: Gender Diversity in STEM – A briefing on women in science and engineering. This book responds to common questions, topics, and misconceptions with factual, cited answers and evidence. Each topic is succinct, covered in an at-a-glance visual format. These chapters are accompanied by commentaries from industry leaders and academic experts. Topics range from unconscious bias, the business case for women in STEM, mentoring to gender diversity for managers.

Evaluation of Phase III WinSETT Initiative

This 2008 report summarizes and evaluates the objectives and outcomes of WinSETT’s Phase III activities.

Inspiring Women – Outcomes of the WinSETT Leadership Program

WinSETT Presentation at CCWESTT National Conference, Regina, 2014.