American Society of Civil Engineers

Retention of Nontraditional Engineering and Construction Professionals

by J. K. Yates, (Prof., Civ. and Envir. Engrg. Dept., San Jose State Univ., One Washington Square, San Jose, CA. E-mail:

Journal of Management in Engineering, Vol. 17, No. 1, January 2001, pp. 41-48, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: This article discusses several of the types of issues that are being encountered by nontraditional engineering and construction professionals such as women and underrepresented minorities (URMs). Research was undertaken that included (1) investigating other studies in this area; (2) conducting extensive interviews with women and underrepresented minority (e.g., Native American, African American, or those of Hispanic origin) engineers; (3) soliciting information from engineers working both within the United States and internationally; and (4) collecting information from seasoned engineers. Most of the articles previously written on this subject summarize the results of questionnaires distributed to women and URM engineers, highlight the types of obstacles they encounter in their profession, describe their working environments, or try to demonstrate that the obstacles faced by nontraditional engineers and construction professionals are easy to overcome. Unfortunately, most of the previous investigations did not explain why there are obstacles for women and URMs in engineering and construction, nor do they propose solutions or suggestions on how to deal with the environments encountered by them. This research project investigated why nontraditional engineering and construction professionals are encountering difficulties, the types of problems and issues they encounter on a daily basis, why there has not been a substantial increase in their numbers in the past two decades, and provides suggestions for improvements on how to deal with the existing environments. The specific issues discussed in this article include (1) the sources of difficulties that women and URMs face; (2) the retention of women and URMs; (3) awareness issues; (4) reasons for limited representation of women and URMs; and (5) recommendations on how these issues might be addressed.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Minority groups
Professional development
Engineering profession
Personnel management