The UK engineering workforce is heavily male-dominated. Back in 2010, only 10.5% of people working in engineering roles were women. Although, this slightly increased to 16.5% by 2021. Looking at numbers, this represents a growth from 562,000 women in engineering roles in 2010 to 936,000 in 2021. This figure is still extremely low showing that women are underrepresented in engineering.
To add to that, the UK has the smallest percentage of female professionals in the engineering workforce compared to the rest of Europe.
Whilst there are far fewer girls in comparison to boys taking engineering, computing and design & technology subjects at GCSE, statistics show that girls are more likely to attain higher grades in these subjects than boys. This suggests that more girls need to be encouraged to take STEM subjects.
International Women's Day 2023
This year’s International Women’s Day is focusing its theme on embracing equity.
Gender equity is a must-have for our society because equal opportunities simply are not enough.
First things first, we need to have an understanding of the difference between equality and equity.
Equality would involve everyone receiving the same treatment. On the other hand, equity focuses on everyone receiving fair treatment according to each individual’s needs and situation. Equity is all about creating an inclusive world.
How do we create an inclusive engineering workforce?
We all start from different places and therefore true inclusion requires equitable action.
In order to deconstruct gender disparity, we need to attract more women to work in engineering. But, how do we do this?
Collective actions can drive change, and therefore each of us needs to play our part in challenging gender stereotypes, calling out discrimination and drawing attention to bias.
Challenging Gender Stereotypes
Now is the time to challenge the outdated stereotypes that boys are destined for manual and technical roles and girls are destined for domestic or clerical roles. The perception that only men possess the right skills for the engineering workforce needs to be reversed.
Engineering is a career path which offers diversity and a large range of roles. Women can add value to this industry, and in order to enforce this new mindset we need to move away from associative masculine and negative dialogue that is ingrained in us from a young age. Currently, there is a large skill gap in the engineering workforce due to engineering professionals retiring. With this in mind, it is vital that young professionals are recruited into the sector. Women especially are vital in combating this skill shortage.
Gender Inequality in Engineering
The underrepresentation of women in senior roles within the engineering sector has led to a gender pay gap. More work needs to be done to improve the progression of women in the engineering sector to help promote them to more senior positions.
On top of this, female engineers experience discrimination within the workplace, with 63% of women in engineering surveying that they experience inappropriate behaviour or comments in the workplace. This stat is three times higher than women working in financial or medical professions.
Engineering companies need to work on a strategy to remove gender inequality within the engineering industry.
The Future of Women in Engineering
Whilst nearly 52% of boys would consider a career in engineering, only 25.4% of girls would. This shows that there is still a challenge to change the mindset of young people and promote the engineering sector to girls.
On the bright side, in STEM A-level subjects, more girls achieve A*-C grades than boys, showing that they are more than capable of being successful in an engineering career.
Whilst, equality is the goal, equity is the way we can get there.
For International Women's Day and beyond, we all need to fully #EmbraceEquity.