Attracting Female Engineers: A Qualitative Analysis in Mechanical Engineering in Germany


  • Johanna M. Werz WZL-IQS, RWTH Aachen University
  • Lea M. Daling WZL-IQS, RWTH Aachen University
  • Lisa Brueggemann WZL-IQS, RWTH Aachen University
  • Esther Borowksi WZL-IQS, RWTH Aachen University
  • Ingrid Isenhardt WZL-IQS, RWTH Aachen University



Women in engineering, Female students, Gender diversity, diversity management, qualitative research


The number of women working as engineers in the mechanical and plant engineering sector in Germany has risen to eleven percent in 2023 – remaining at humble levels. In higher positions, the share is even lower. While around 20 % of engineering students at German universities are female, these women do not seem to be entering the sector or they are leaving it again. The question arises as to what companies in the mechanical and plant engineering sector can do to attract female engineers after graduation. This study was conducted in cooperation with the German Engineering Association. The aim was to qualitatively explore the reasons why women enter, stay or leave the engineering sector and to include the industry’s perspective to obtain a holistic view of the situation. Therefore, on the one hand the perspective of female engineers was investigated and, on the other hand, combined with the perspective of companies. We provide insights from focus groups and interviews with 49 female engineers across all career levels, from an analysis of 90 online company websites and social media pages as well as from three on-site visits at exemplary companies. The findings point to unresolved issues in recruitment and beyond: highlighting role models of successful women in engineering, the need for companies to actively attract and support women in engineering, e. g. through recruiting strategies focusing on women, insights into the working culture, and transparency regarding career options. Overall, the study suggests that companies should embed gender diversity and group specific recruitment as important issues in their organizations. Consequently, the study provides recommendations for action for companies seeking to become a more inclusive and diverse industry. Limitations are discussed and further implications are presented.

Author Biographies

Johanna M. Werz, WZL-IQS, RWTH Aachen University

After studying psychology, Johanna M. Werz has joined the RWTH Aachen University as a researcher six years ago. Together with Lea M. Daling, she is currently leading the research group Human Technology Interaction. Her research is concerned with transparency in AI as well as with fostering diversity in a transforming working world.

Lea M. Daling, WZL-IQS, RWTH Aachen University

Lea Daling is co-leader of the Human Technology Interaction research group at the Chair of Intelligence in Quality Sensing (WZL-IQS) since 2023. In her PhD thesis, she focuses on investigating psychological effects of XR technologies and their impact on human performance (2017-2024).

Esther Borowksi, WZL-IQS, RWTH Aachen University

Dr. rer. nat. Esther Borowski is head of department at the Chair of Intelligence in Quality Sensing (WZL-IQS). She completed her doctorate in 2011 at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering with the topic "Agile process model for the management of complex production start-ups".

Ingrid Isenhardt, WZL-IQS, RWTH Aachen University

Prof. Dr phil. Ingrid Isenhardt is Academic Director at the WZL-IQS as adjunct professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering with a second seat at the Faculty of Philosophy at RWTH Aachen University. She conducts research on socio-technical aspects of digital transformation, sustainable production & value creation as well as information and data management in mechanical engineering.