Photographs of engineers wearing hard hats create negative and misleading stereotypes, according to an organisation that helps professional engineers gain management qualifications.
Sainsbury Management Fellows (SMF) has produced a Hard Hat Index measuring how frequently the offending items appear in selected publications, arguing that a ban on clichéd portrayals would improve the image of engineers and attract job applicants. Pictures in the media and in corporate literature define engineers inaccurately, it says, “undermining their role as creative problem-solvers who improve our lives and shape tomorrow’s world”.
SMF backs up this assertion with the results of a YouGov poll, which found that 63 per cent of respondents thought engineers wear hard hats on an average working day, while only a quarter saw business suits as engineering attire. Even more thought engineers predominantly work on building and construction sites (69 per cent) or industrial sites (66 per cent), while a mere 40 per cent chose the ‘offices’ option.
The Hard Hat Index is based on monitoring nine national newspapers over 18 months, and 16 engineering publications over 13 months (April 2012 to April 2013). Over these times there were 940 hard-hat pictures in the newspapers (88 advertising, 682 editorial), and 185 in the engineering media (118 advertising, 67 editorial).
SMF confirmed that E&T was one of the engineering titles, coming a respectable 8th in the rankings with 10 images across the monitoring period (five each in editorial and advertisements).
SMF President David Falzani explained: “Whilst intentionally whimsical, the index highlights a serious issue. The institutions and educational establishment are doing good work to encourage more young people into engineering, but the industry is neglecting the impact of the visual identifiers they use. Building a better brand identity for engineers will draw more high-calibre graduates towards the profession and ensure that a diversity of people stay within engineering.”