2021 EE Demographics and the Push for Diversity in Engineering

November 20, 2021 by Lianne Frith

The demographic of electrical engineers as of 2021 is still largely homogenous. But many companies and universities are designing programs for a more diverse pool of next-gen EEs.

The vast majority of the electrical engineers in the U.S.—nearly 80 percent—are men. This is not a figure that is replicated in other industries. In fact, in 2021, nearly half of the U.S. workforce are women. In regards to ethnicity, white workers account for almost 70 percent of EEs, followed by Asian engineers and Hispanic or Latino engineers. 

The majority of EEs in the U.S. live in Texas and New York. 

Breakdown of EE demographics as of 2021

Breakdown of EE demographics as of 2021. Image used courtesy of Zippia


Change has been slow with regard to diversity in electrical engineering with women still vastly underrepresented, but the demographics are starting to evolve. From 1970 to 2019, the number of women in the STEM workforce has grown from eight percent to 27 percent. The smallest gains, however, were in engineering.


Percentage of women in STEM jobs

Percentage of women in STEM jobs. Image used courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau

More Inclusive Engineering Workforce

Electrical engineers play a vital role in America’s global competitiveness. However, there is a considerable shortage of appropriately skilled workers in the engineering sector. Over the next ten years, the U.S. will need an additional 20,200 electrical engineers, according to one report. To fill this gap, many American companies are outsourcing employment to more inexpensive foreign labor. On the other hand, several companies and universities are working to widen their nets in recruiting diverse candidates within the U.S. 

For example, the GE Foundation has a long track record of uplifting underrepresented communities. The foundation recently announced that it plans to commit up to $100 million over ten years to increase the diversity of young people in engineering.


Next Engineers program

The Next Engineers program aims to help students meet challenges such as clean energy, improved healthcare, and sustainable transportation. Image used courtesy of GE Foundation


The GE program is aimed at college readiness, providing students with hands-on exposure to engineering and scholarships to pursue engineering degrees. The program intends to influence 85,000 students in 25 cities around the world by 2030.

Qualcomm wants to cultivate innovators who bring varying backgrounds, ideas, and points of view to the table. The company has a diversity task force, global inclusion and diversity team, and a diversity talent development program. The multinational corporation actively seeks and recruits these candidates in the belief that teams built around different perspectives and experiences fuel creativity and innovation. 


Recruiting for Nontraditional Candidates 

The current skills shortage in engineering may also be the result of a lack of awareness among young people about engineering routes. 

In a recent highlight on three women making a splash in electrical engineering, AAC highlighted Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code. Bryant's initiative provides resources for girls at workshops and summer camps to learn basic programming, web design, app development, and robotics. Her programs educate attendees on the opportunities within electrical engineering and computer science. 

Likewise, to expand university reach to nontraditional candidates, UC Riverside has a Culture, Equity, and Inclusion (CEI) Committee that is dedicated to immediate and sustainable action in making the university's EE community more inclusive. The committee has stated that there are systemic barriers for underrepresented groups that need to be broken down. Stanford's electrical engineering department also has a CEI committee.


Graph of the percentage of each ethnic category

Graph of the percentage of each ethnic category between 2008 and 2018 among EEs. Image used courtesy of Zippia

Another group seeking to expand the pool of next-generation EEs is the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), which provides resources for women to succeed in engineering. This year, the society granted $1.2 million in scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students. Seven of these recipients came from the University of Arizona, which has stated its intentions to diversify its engineering classes. 

“This community has shown me the value of diversity in engineering and has provided me with a platform to develop my confidence as an engineer," said electrical engineering graduate student Elizabeth Jones. “It has been my goal to help others find that same confidence.” 


More Diversity Means More Talent

A recent article in Harvard Business Review reported that while women constitute 20 percent of engineering graduates, 40 percent of women who pursue these degrees either discontinue their studies or never enter the profession. Many of these women cited a hegemonic masculine culture in their field as a reason for leaving.  

In an article on diversity in STEM, Scientific American writer Kenneth Gibbs Jr. comments that a lack of diversity represents a loss of talent. Ultimately, greater diversity brings a range of perspectives, and with expanded outlooks comes a greater likelihood of innovation, growth, and financial success