Are Women Too Empathetic to Be Engineers?

Engineers need to solve complicated technical problems and develop complex systems. Systemizing and logic seem like the main qualities we need in engineers. Won’t empathy just get in the way of objectivity?…

“Empathize.” That was David Kelley’s recent advice to 2014 engineering graduates from Dartmouth.

David is the founder and chairman of IDEO and the founder of Stanford’s d. school and he chose to talk about empathy with a group of engineers? Really? Maybe he didn’t understand his audience (so much for empathy)? Or did he?

Empathy is the ability to recognize emotions in others. Individuals range in their ability and desire to empathize and studies have found gender-based differences with regard to empathy. In general, men show greater systemizing behavior, while women show greater empathizing behavior. Systemizing behavior is the drive to analyze the variables in a system and to derive the underlying rules that govern a system’s behavior, whereas empathizing is the capacity to predict people’s behavior by inferring their mental states. 

by Vicki May 

Thayer School Investiture 2014: David Kelley’s Speech