IET Director of Membership and Professional Development Michelle Richmond appearing on Newsnight

'Too few women are entering engineering'

“Too few women go into engineering,” is the message from government and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

The IET’s director of Membership and Professional Development Michelle Richmond appeared on a 'Newsnight' report yesterday evening, looking into the lack of women in the industry.

The report included figures from the IET showing that 50 per cent of women who study engineering choose not to go into the industry, compared to just 30 per cent of their male counterparts.

Richmond said: “Too few women enter the engineering profession. The IET’s most recent survey of engineering and technology companies found that just 6 per cent of professional engineers are female.

“There is a misconception, held by some, that engineering isn’t a career choice for women. We need to reverse this trend, and change peoples’ perceptions of engineering, to ensure they receive balanced career advice and the right support from industry

“The IET is taking a range of measures to increase the number of women in engineering. We support both women and girls interested in entering the profession. We support our members – both men and women – as they progress in their careers.”

And speaking on Radio 4’s 'World At One' yesterday Business Secretary Vince Cable echoed Richmond's sentiments, saying a lack of confidence was often to blame for stopping women entering into the engineering sector.

He said: “I think in many cases it’s lack of confidence. I think it is sort of an assumption that ‘this is all not for us and a bit difficult’. Actually, young women should be told they have as much, if not more, potential than men and should overcome [their] lack of confidence. I think that’s one thing we can do: is to say ‘look, there are lots of very good role models out there’.

“The professional engineering bodies are trying to build up a campaign of explaining to young women that engineering is a career by pointing to many of their own members and people in engineering who have achieved great things, [who] happened to be women but were currently rather anonymous.”

He said the government was working to attract schoolchildren into the sector. “We’re working with companies on programmes to attract the attention of schoolchildren. It is about encouragement. There’s no way of offering people money. It’s not something you can do in that way. It is by leadership and giving the message.

“Just to give one case – we have a scheme which the government promotes called See Inside Manufacturing, where we encourage some of the leading manufacturers to open their factories and invite in schoolchildren to look at it. And there may be an emphasis on young women. I think it’s that kind of exercise, overcoming the prejudice and the stereotypes, that is what’s required

“If anyone has any shortcuts, I’m happy to listen to them and take it up. I haven’t heard any. And it is about changing attitudes, prejudices, perceptions, leading by example, creating role models, and that is not something you can do overnight.”

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