Engineering leaders were alarmed this summer when they became aware of Harris poll results showing that engineers, for the past 20 years, have trailed scientists by a wide margin in a ranking of the most prestigious professions. So this summer the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) commissioned its own Harris poll to find out what Americans think of engineers and what can be done to raise their status.
The results point to "some real pluses," says AAES spokesperson Greg Schuckman. For example, engineers are seen as stronger leaders, which "helps deconstruct the whole Dilbert image." But other results were disappointing, like a low rating on awareness of society's needs. Partly in response to the poll, the AAES is launching a public awareness campaign this fall to try to bolster support for engineering. "Most troubling," Schuckman says, was that nearly 80% of women polled said they know little or nothing about the field. "That was a real wake-up call for us."