After starting out in engineering, women are less likely than men to stay in the profession. But rather than a toxic curriculum or classroom environment, the problem may come from the group dynamics found in teamwork and summer internships, according to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
When MIT researchers analyzed more than 40 engineering students’ twice-monthly diaries, they found that female students often felt marginalized during group activities. In these situations, men are more likely to work on challenging problems, while women are more likely to be assigned menial tasks. For example, one of the students wrote about a group project in her design class: “Two girls in a group had been working on the robot we were building in that class for hours, and the guys in their group came in and within minutes had sentenced them to doing menial tasks while the guys went and had all the fun in the machine shop.”