March 8, 2022
In 2021, 50.04%1 of the United States workforce were women, up from 49.7% the previous year. Of that 50%, one third2 have children under 18. Working mothers have what can seem like two fulltime jobs: their day job and caregiving. Nearly 22%3 of highly educated women are fulltime caregivers, while only 1.5%3 of men are stay at home dads. And COVID-19 hasn’t helped. Due to the pandemic, 33%4 of working mothers considered reducing their workload or leaving work altogether.
But with a strong support system from friends, family, and employers, working mothers can excel at work and at home without sacrificing one for the other.
We sat down with a few women from Ansys to discuss the "Break the Bias" theme of International Women’s Day 2022. There was a common theme to the conversations: expectations about women in engineering.
“It’s a weird notion that women have to give up themselves. People shouldn’t be putting this on them,” Soma Chakrabarti, manager of education development at Ansys, explains. “I mean, a lot of women don't come to engineering because they think they will not get married. But that’s not true.”
Chakrabarti attended the University of Calcutta in India where she earned her bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in chemical technology. She received her doctorate in biochemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. “During this entire time, many of my relatives asked my father: ‘Why you are not getting your daughter married. What is she doing?’”
Maintaining proper work life balances is hard for anyone, let alone working mothers. In a viral social media post, Buckley Friedberg5 explains, with humor, all the things mothers are expected to be:
Not only is mom expected to have a Pinterest-like household, she’s expected to excel in her career. But that’s difficult when women create a living human being, watch it grow for a few months, or even weeks, and then go back to work fulltime. The emotional and physical exhaustion of being a working mom weighs heavily on their shoulders. With all these expectations, it’s no surprise that 43%6 of highly educated women with children leave their jobs for a period of time.
Roughly 35%7 of STEM students, graduate and undergraduate, are women. Only 12.5%8 of all aerospace engineers are women.
“You are probably the only woman in the room,” Swati Saxena, technical account manager at Ansys, explains. “We don't have that many female graduate students in engineering.”
A study9 conducted from 2003 to 2010 found that “new mothers switched to either part-time work in STEM (11%), part-time work outside of STEM (6%), or left the workforce entirely (15%) by 2010.” The study also found that these trends occur regardless of discipline, race, and other demographic factors, suggesting that it is a combination of the duties of motherhood and the demand of STEM careers that force mothers to choose.
Saxena has her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in aerospace engineering. She currently supports some of Ansys’ major enterprise federal aerospace and defense accounts. She explained that one challenge women in engineering face didn’t occur to her until she had her first child two years ago. “Women go through much more,” she says. “They definitely have much more responsibility for the baby and so on.”
The solution is to support women in whatever decision they make; whether that be a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, or not a mom at all.
Christy Weng, license compliance manager at Ansys, explained that her greatest accomplishment was having her daughter. “You have to balance the two: work and motherhood,” she says, “and you need a strong support system to do that.”
All three women highlighted that having a strong support system through their family, friends, and workplace has helped them succeed. Chakrabarti suggests that some societal and cultural changes also need to be made to really support working mothers.
“One of the things that I see here is that mothers get a long maternity leave,” says Chakrabarti, who currently lives in the United Kingdom. “Even the fathers are given paternity leave.”
“We have to give women enough room and opportunities to have that work-life balance and not judge them,” Saxena adds. “I was fortunate enough to have very, very strong support from my management to be able to work a flexible schedule and also be able to take care of the family at the same time.”
This International Women’s Day, we want to break the bias that working women have to choose between working in a career they love or caring for their families. At Ansys, we pride ourselves on the fact that men and women can do both successfully. For more information about how Ansys supports its employees visit the careers page.
Women at Ansys describe how they found success in the workplace.