It’s National Women in Engineering Day this week, which is dedicated to raising the profile and celebrating the achievements of women in engineering.
So, why is this day so important now more than ever?
In the UK, women represent just six per cent of engineers, one of the lowest percentages in Europe. And, women are also under-represented in occupations such as science, graphic design and broadcasting, according to the Department for Work and Pensions’ Not Just for Boys campaign.
The lack of women in engineering is a very significant problem, contributing to skills shortages which damage the economy.
If we continue to fail to attract women into engineering, the UK will be in a significantly weakened position to find the 1.82 million engineers it is estimated the country will need in 2012-2022 (according to Engineering UK).
It means that women are missing out on interesting and rewarding career opportunities and industry is missing out on the innovation that comes with greater diversity in the workforce.
Why is it proving so difficult to attract women into engineering?
I think it’s down to a combination of many things, including the image of engineers within the UK, careers advice girls are given in schools and the lack of inspirational engineering role models for girls.
That is why the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), along with other organisations, invests a great deal of time and resource into attracting more women into engineering and celebrating those women that do work in the industry.
For instance, the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards recognise the achievements of female talent in engineering and aim to encourage and inspire other girls and women to enter the profession.
This year’s awards close tomorrow.
But industry must be proactive too, especially in marketing their jobs to women.
There are some good examples of companies who show creative ways of reaching out to women with their job adverts, flexible working patterns and inclusive cultures, and the results have been very positive.
There are excellent young women who need to be convinced by industry that they can have a rewarding career in engineering.
Addressing the gender imbalance in engineering also needs to remain high on the Government’s agenda.
I can say with confidence that working as a female engineer in the digital economy is one of the most exciting, fast-moving and challenging places to be at the moment.
But the main challenge for me is how we get the next generation of career women to realise this – I want other women to enjoy the excitement and prospects that a career in engineering brings.
President-elect, Institution of Engineering & Technology