Today is National Women in Engineering Day, which is dedicated to raising the profile and celebrating the achievements of women in engineering. Women currently represent only 7% of the engineering workforce in the UK, the lowest percentage in Europe. If this trend continues, the UK will be in a significantly weakened position to find the 87,000 new engineers it is estimated the country will need each year over the next decade (according to Engineering UK). The lack of women in engineering is a very significant problem, contributing to skills shortages which damage the economy. The shocking reality is that the UK is only utilising a small fraction of the potential workforce in this vital sector. It also means that women are missing out on interesting and rewarding career opportunities.
That is why the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and other organisations invest a great deal of time and resource into attracting more women into engineering. We have made some good progress in the last 20 years, but a lot more work needs to be done. 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 and flexible working patterns, 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.
The challenge may be great, but with an emphasis on raising awareness, recognising talent and promoting key ambassadors in these fields, it will be possible to dispel this stigma and provide inspiration to females for years to come. As well as playing our role, we will continue to encourage others to play theirs, in particular by insisting that the gender imbalance in engineering remains high on the government’s agenda. As a former apprentice myself, I have loved my engineering career from the very start. I want other women to enjoy the excitement and prospects that a career in engineering brings.