When most people think of engineers, the vision of a man would probably take precedent in most people’s mind. And you wouldn’t be blamed in to thinking that, as women are generally underrepresented within the engineering sector. However, the industry is trying hard to recruit more females into STEM industries. Current figures show that only 12% of women are professional engineers in the UK, a statistic that many women organisations within engineering are trying to change.
Yesterday the engineering sector celebrated International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), an annual event that is in its 7th year. The theme this year was called Shape The World, which aptly describes what a career in engineering can do. The event not only celebrates women within engineering, but also puts a spotlight on the lack of women within engineering. INWED wants to show that engineering is a potential career pathway for the thousands of young females, from those choosing their options for GCSE or leaving school through to women who might be considering a career change. Choosing to enter the world of engineering is just as rewarding as any other career choice. There is however, still that needs to be changed internally within the industry and INWED also aims to encourage employers to actively employ women into the workplace. Like most industries there can be a lack of women represented throughout the industry. INWED being in its 7th year shows no sign of slowing down, their mission is clear and is set to continue to ensure engineering becomes a profession that is diverse in age, race and gender.
How the industry is actively making changes
One of the major UK construction and engineering projects that is determined to break the male dominated role within engineering is the HS2 project.
HS2 is set to be the UK’s state-of-the-art, high-speed rail network and as part of its mandate they are keen to address the lack of diversity within the railway, engineering and construction workforce with its skills, employment and education strategy. This strategy ensures there are clear pathways in place to engage women and young people into the sector. The strategy encompasses the ongoing efforts to organise and run STEM workshops, career fairs, work experience days, apprenticeships and graduate recruitment programmes, all initiatives that open up dialogue and expose the engineering sector to the young people of tomorrow.
Overall the industry does have a long way to go, having large scale UK projects like HS2 and Crossrail that are openly encouraging women to explore career options within these projects is just the start. The statistics to increase the 12% of women in STEM careers is a much wider issue and requires all areas of society to work together, from the education system; schools, colleges, to the media, as well as companies within the industry right down to changing personal mindsets – all these areas require change to show that being an engineer is not just a ‘mans job’.
The traditional engineering role that many think of has truly evolved with engineering covering roles from computer programming, robotics, electrical and mechanical to aerospace engineering or scientific modelling, the list is endless. Technology and Engineering go hand in hand, with the development of technology comes even more engineering opportunities.
With the continuation of events such as INWED, organisations such as Women in Engineering, WISE and national conference and award shows that recognise Women in Engineering are all great ways to highlight the industry and are going in the right direction.
The options available within engineering are vast and versatile, plus entering a profession where there are currently staff shortages make the roles even more attractive as the demand to fill roles is high.
Let’s hope this time next year the industry have made waves in increasing the number of women within the sector, and events like the INWED continue to flourish and shed light into a truly exciting career path.
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