Moving Forward: Technical Development for Female Semiconductor Engineers, Zella Mae Muro
Many technical industries struggle to achieve a workplace that fosters both male and female leadership advancement. This feminist action-oriented study addresses gender inclusion in an organization that had an engineering population where 24% are female and of that, only 5% of the female engineers had achieved senior-level status. The over-arching goal of this study was to develop an in-house leadership training program, as a pipeline system, for mid-level female engineers to progress to senior-level positions. The program had been in place for over a year and included multiple components: (a) manager preparation sessions that focus on program awareness and management roles, (b) leadership workshop with senior-level female guest speakers, and (c) a set of Learning Series with unique objectives to serve program participants. The Learning Series included numerous topics and activities: job shadowing with principal-level engineers, developing leadership skills, building a community of trust and practice, establishing mentorships, advocacy from the General Manager, career planning, applying technical career ladder tools, and preparing for senior roles. As part of this ongoing action research project, the participants, technical female members and their managers, attended focus group and individual interviews to identify the benefits and challenges of the program. Overall, participants reported four times more benefits than challenges and unanimously agreed that the program was very powerful. Participants were also asked to recommend strategies for making program improvements, and their feedback will be used in the next cycle of program development. At the onset of the study, the female engineers were asked to develop individualized leadership goals and to establish a set of rubrics for achieving those goals and assess the related skills. From this rubric, a pre- and post-skill assessment Likert survey was developed. Its results showed the female engineers and their managers rated the women’s post-assessment skills as being higher at the end of the program. Taken together, these findings suggest the leadership training program was successful in preparing technical female engineers for leadership roles, and at the closure of this study, the number of female engineers who participate in the senior-level Technical Leadership Pipeline program had more than doubled.
Key Words: Technical female engineer, semiconductor manufacturing, technical leadership pipeline development program