Is there still a gender gap in the Engineering sector?

Having specialised in recruiting talent into the engineering sector for many years. One trend that has always fascinated me is the lack of females in the industry, when did this great country of ours decide that females should not aspire to be engineers and help to change the world?

I’m a senior recruiter, having specialised in recruiting talent into the engineering sector for many years. One trend that has always fascinated me is the lack of females in the industry, when did this great country of ours decide that females should not aspire to be engineers and help to change the world?

Who thought up the notion that females would not make good engineers? The UK female engineering workforce is at 9% whilst in Germany, France and Sweden around 15-25% of engineers are female.

The engineering sector is crying out for new talent, 1.8 million people with engineering skills will be needed over the next seven to ten years to fulfil demand. We will need to attract new engineers from every possible talent pool to have any chance of meeting this, with the lack of females in the industry we are definitely going to struggle. How are we going to solve this? 

Start with the grassroots, target parents, educational institutions, and the engineering industry to help drive quick changes. Parents are influential in a young person’s life, many parents feel that engineering is still a traditionally male-dominated industry, they feel this is not a suitable career for their daughters believing that engineering is ‘dirty’, ‘manual labour’ and too technical.’ Also gender stereotyping on the internet is discouraging girls from entering into an engineering career, around one in ten girls said that images they have seen online have put them off. The educational industries can help by highlighting the career paths available to young women and explain the importance as currently I feel there is a poor understanding of the value of engineering careers.

The IET have set up a Women's Network, this is an initiative set up in order to engage with under-represented groups within the engineering and technology and support them throughout their career, maintaining a central point of professional contact with like-minded individuals, sharing information, contributing to discussions and much more. They have over 163,000 members across 127 countries.

I am all for learning and teaching the next generation that engineering provides an interesting and varied career for intelligent and gregarious individuals – male or female. Also I believe that few other industries offer the opportunity to address serious global challenges such as climate change, ageing populations, food scarcity and they certainly don’t all promise such strong job opportunities or contribute to the economy on such a great scale. It’s not all doom and gloom though as things are improving. We are slowly seeing more young women enter the profession, but it is important for the industry, educators and government to continue their efforts and ensure females make a significant contribution to engineering's future.

Do you have any thoughts on the gender gap in the engineering sector? Please feel free to leave your comments below or contact Kelly Laine on Kelly.laine@bps-world.com or 01628 857343

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