The UK has one of the lowest ratios of women working in the engineering sector in Europe

Call for more women in engineering

Celebrating the first National Women in Engineering Day, the UK industry and professional bodies join forces to highlight the need of attracting more women into the traditionally male-dominated field.

In an attempt to change companies’ recruitment and retention approaches, the IET is launching a new campaign aiming to increase the ratio of women in the UK engineering sector.

Championing the campaign is IET Deputy President, Naomi Climer, who is also President of Sony Media Cloud Services. Climer previously led a 50:50 campaign to create an inclusive and diverse culture that promotes gender balance and a fulfilling working environment in Sony.

“Before launching the campaign, we had to highlight that the lack of women was a genuine business concern,” Climer explained. “To do this we set out a strong and compelling business case. Our focus was that improved gender diversity would lead to more innovation, as well as a more harmonious and collaborative working environment – all of which would ultimately help us maintain our competitive market position.”

Prior to the campaign, Sony Europe didn’t have a good record for either attracting or retaining female engineers. It also had a very low percentage of women in senior positions within the company.

Currently, just 7 per cent of the total UK engineering workforce is female – the lowest ratio Europe. This effectively means that engineering companies are not accessing half of the potential talent pool which, given the impending skills crisis in engineering and technology, makes poor business sense.

A similar initiative has been launched by Crossrail, the largest infrastructure project in Europe.

Crossrail is hosting an Engineer Your Future event to mark the first National Women in Engineering Day today and has run a competition for young people to develop ideas for attracting more young women to engineering.

Thirty finalists are joining leading Crossrail female engineers to see engineering in action at Crossrail’s new Canary Wharf station. They are taking part in a networking event and meeting Transport Minister Stephen Hammond. Five winners will receive a year’s mentoring from leading Crossrail engineers.

“The UK plans to deliver an unprecedented pipeline of infrastructure projects but it must do more to attract women to address the skills demand,” said Crossrail Chief Executive Andrew Wolstenholme.

“There is also more that we must do to challenge the gender stereotypes that continue to influence some young women and men in their selection of careers.”

The UK is facing an unprecedented demand for engineering skills and needs to double the number of engineering graduates to 87,000 per year to meet the estimated 1 million job openings by 2020.

The demand in engineering skills is in part being driven by an unprecedented level of planned infrastructure projects abroad and in the UK, such as HS2 and Thames Tideway.

In this situation, it seems alarming that one in two state schools is not sending a single female student to study A-level maths or sciences.

Crossrail and its contractors have worked with around 100 schools reaching more than 10,000 students in the past year in a bid to attract more young people to engineering, including young women and leave a lasting legacy for the industry.

More than 70 students aged 16-19, took part in Crossrail’s Engineer Your Futurechallenge. Emerging themes from the students about barriers for women to purse an engineering career included: perceptions that it was a “man’s job”, family objections and discrimination. Both men and women thought integrating engineering into popular culture through TV shows, celebrity endorsement, advertising and media campaigns and promoting female role models would help raise the profile of engineering as a career for women.

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