Where are all the women in engineering? UK lags behind

Women make up less than 10 per cent of the engineering sector in the UK. With a large skills gap looming and the additional need for a more diverse workforce, it has never been more important to inspire and encourage more people, especially women, to choose a career in& engineering, say experts.

Registered charity, Women’s Engineering Society (WES) was formed in 1919 to unify the sorority of skilled women in this male-dominated sector.

“WES exists to provide a voice to women in engineering. We need to find more and better ways to increase the number of women taking a full part in engineering and allied sectors with actions from employers, educators and policymakers,” says Benita Mehra, current president of WES.

“To make societal change, we need to ensure we have a mix of people from all backgrounds and ages whose combined creativity will enable us to come up with the best possible solutions to tackle the problems we face in this ever-demanding world,” she adds. “WES is here to provide a voice for women wanting to take an equal part in today’s technical and engineered world.”

See also: Let’s make it easier for the UK’s tech and engineering sector to succeed

SSE is UK’s largest energy company. According to head of inclusion and diversity, Rosie MacRae, the energy sector is one of the most affected by the lack of gender representation, which is why diversity is a huge focus for the organisation today.

“The energy industry is currently facing two significant employment challenges; a skills shortage and a stark lack of diversity. If it wants to be in a position to compete in the future it needs to take action now,” she says.  “Through our inclusion and diversity programme we’re aiming to contribute not only to change in our own organisation but across the energy industry and society as a whole.”

“It’s a traditionally male dominated industry but the type of work men and women do for us needs to change. All the research suggests a diverse company functions better. More diversity means better debate, leading to better decisions, resulting in better delivery.”

SSE’s policy to tackle it’s gender pay gap is called “In, On and Up” and involves getting as many qualified women into the organisation as possible and making sure they don’t face any barriers to progression. Its apprenticeship and graduate programme continues to improve when it comes to gender diversity and although there is more to do, the female numbers are going up, says MacRae.

The UK currently has the lowest number of women working in engineering. Of the 640,300 engineers in the workforce, only 55,706 are women. In comparison, Latvia has the highest percentage of female engineers in Europe, with women making up 30 per cent of their 19,600 strong engineering workforce.

RS Components president Marianne Culver believes the first step to addressing these staggering figures is in increasing awareness. “The future of women in engineering can be very bright so long as women don’t feel outgunned and start to realise, ‘why shouldn’t it be me? I could do this!’,” she says.

As a first step in raising awareness, RS Components designed a graphic to visually represent just how small the proportion of female engineers make up the cohort. Take a look below.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.