Exploring Women in Engineering Leadership: A Case Study

PIP Study Report CoverIn 2023, SWE conducted a research study on behalf of Process Industry Practices (PIP), a self-funded consortium of process industry owners and engineering, procurement, and construction companies, focused on women in engineering leadership. Founded in 1993, PIP produces process guidelines, criteria, and specifications based on existing technical standards for use in the engineering and construction industries.

PIP leadership noticed that the organization had a relatively high number of women in leadership (approximately 50%) compared to women’s representation in the engineering profession and among PIP’s volunteers (approximately 14%). This study was conducted to explore the following research questions:

  1. What factors influence women’s decisions to join and pursue a leadership position with PIP?
  2. Does participating as a PIP leader help women achieve their professional goals?
  3. Has women’s involvement in PIP leadership impacted the organization’s culture?

Twelve interviews were conducted to understand why the environment within PIP seems conducive to women leaders. The findings offer ideas for other engineering organizations seeking to diversify their leadership ranks, including:

  • Invite Women into Leadership: Many women interviewed stated that someone within PIP leadership encouraged them to pursue a leadership role.
  • Focus on Productivity in a Flexible Workspace: PIP makes participating in leadership activities manageable by offering the opportunity to attend most meetings virtually.
  • Provide the Supports Necessary for Success: PIP uses a Co-Leader model for many of their teams and committees, allowing leaders to share responsibilities. The PIP staff ensure that leaders have what they need, including assistance with meeting logistics and preparation.
  • Appreciate and Value Women’s Expertise: Those interviewed spoke about the way Leaders make a real effort to create a non-competitive and safe environment that makes people feel that their thoughts and ideas matter.

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