Pioneer Selection have recently noted an increase in the number of women we have placed into manufacturing engineering roles. This is a positive shift and a step towards getting more women into STEM careers. However, there is still a very long way to go and we are left to question, how can we do better?
What’s the problem?
How do you think the UK is doing when it comes to women in engineering? Better than most countries in Europe?
Wrong. We’re bottom of the European league table - only 11% of our engineering professionals are women, while the engineering workforce in Bulgaria and Cyprus is 30% women. In 2017 only 15% of our engineering undergrads were female - India had 30%.
Yet the UK was one of the first countries to allow women to study maths and science at university, and has produced many great women engineers, from Henrietta Vansittart (1833 – 1883), who designed the propellers for the world-famous Lusitania ocean liner, to Ailie MacAdam, who masterminded the refurbishment of London’s St Pancras International station. So why are we falling so short - and why should we care?
Why does it matter?
Occupational sectors like construction and manufacturing are behind other industries in closing the gender gap, and they also are experiencing significant labour shortages, with up to 60,000 positions in the UK lacking suitable individuals to fill them. Workplace diversity is good for companies and research indicates it can make them 15% more likely to be competitive and engineering teams featuring people with a range of backgrounds and experiences drive innovation. Initiatives to welcome more women engineers can attack all of these pressing issues at once.
Why are there so few women entering this industry?
Experts believe that young women entering the workforce have misconceptions about what engineers do. They view the field as non-creative, highly technical, and above all catered towards men. But many women engineers say they were drawn to their work by the opportunity to improve people’s lives and communities by improving the structures and technologies they use.
Sexism in the hiring process for senior roles and gender segregation--the “glass wall” and “glass ceiling”--has historically led women to steer clear of careers in the occupational sector. The societal perception of construction work, especially, as being unsuitable for women leads to an environment where female workers feel the need to work twice as hard simply to prove they are capable. The more these problems are addressed, the more women will be available to fill the labour gap.
How can we get more women into the industry?
Marketing teams and recruiters can play a key role in changing the conversation about women in the engineering and construction industry. By focusing on the benefits women entering the workforce care about most for instance, the social relevance of occupational work and how it contributes to sustainability and community you can counter the public perception of these types of jobs. Similarly, emphasising the range of jobs available and how technology has shifted the skills needed for those jobs can help women candidates see themselves in one of them.
You company’s HR department can also prioritise reaching out to women regarding open positions that might be a good fit for them, and creating professional development opportunities for them.
Pioneer will continue to encourage and support females who want to get into the industry. Contact us to discuss our current roles and your next career move.