The Stupid Curve
Posted on November 23, 2017

The stupid curve was a term coined by former U.S. Deloitte boss, Mike Cook, in reference to the representation of men in leadership positions, and the underrepresentation of women. Given that women are equally, or even slightly overrepresented, as university graduates, and grossly underrepresented at the senior executive level, there is a hell of a lot of wasted female talent. There are strong indications that the men sitting in many of these leadership positions are not as capable as the women who have disappeared, or not travelled through the pipeline toward senior leadership positions.

The gross underrepresentation of women in the engineering sector is evidence that the sector is dumbed down. Assuming that intelligence is distributed evenly among men and women, then there is a significant number of intelligent women who are simply not being attracted into the sector. For example, only 14 per cent of women complete engineering degrees. Attracting more female talent to the sector would lead to a higher performing sector.

The majority of the arguments that women are not interested in nor suited to engineering fall away when we look at other cultures. In India, Latvia, and Bulgaria, nearly 30 per cent of engineering graduates are women. I’d like to propose further that the 14 per cent of women who do graduate from engineering degrees are among the cream of engineering graduates. You have to be extraordinary to survive a difficult degree when you are a part of a minority. The majority of the infrastructure, teaching, and learning staff are men and not women. Graduates transitioning to the workplace need to be exceedingly gritty and determined to survive. In addition, women’s orientation towards relationship and social skills combined with the analytical skills that come from being trained as an engineer should make them perfect for leadership roles in the engineering sector. Based on the number of females who graduate, female engineers should be over-represented in senior leadership roles in the sector. Clearly, they are not. A quick search on the composition of the executive teams of leading engineering firms will testify to the virtual absence of female executives.

This is an excerpt from Jenny’s book, ‘Women in Hard Hats – building leadership, confidence and life satisfaction in the engineering sector‘.  To purchase a copy go to

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