Engineering is inherently team centric at one level or another. Teams that are most successful effectively capitalize upon each team member’s strengths and compensate for any weaknesses. Further, effective teams have relatively consistent perceptions of strengths and how to route information, tasks, etc.
Wording here is deliberate: perceptions of strengths vs. actual strengths. Perceptions are individually derived assessments and can be biased by each individual’s past experiences or subconscious biases.
Team demographics are typically reflective of demographics in engineering, which means that teams most commonly have majority individuals usually with a single minority individual included. By virtue of this demographic, the minority individual is subjected to the perceptions of the majority individuals. Historically, minority individuals are regarded as less qualified because of the lack of examples or proximity to highly qualified minorities. Thus, perceptions of strengths by all individuals (minority and majority alike) tend to underestimate the strengths of the minority individual. Since strengths also hinge closely upon individual self confidence to build each strength, it's a forward propagating that if individuals get cues that they are not strong in a given area.
How do we change this? [Notice this question has skipped over the question of whether we should change this, which is addressed on the YoA about page.]