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Before we get started, let’s just take a minute to reflect on why engineers are so important in the first place. They’re creative problem solvers, full of new ideas and the know-how to implement them, creating new solutions or improving existing ones. Without them, some of the world’s most famous buildings & landmarks would simply not have been created. Think of London without London bridge, Dublin without the Spire, or France without the Eiffel Tower, the list is endless.
It is very evident that engineers play a pivotal role across the globe and therefore are in high demand, however in recent years’ demand has been higher than supply, leading to many delayed projects, which can have a knock on effect throughout the supply of work. The question that is on everyone’s mind is why? A very simplistic answer is that not enough young people are getting into the trade, but if you delve further into the stats (and that’s not to say this statement isn’t true because it is) we simply do not have enough women in engineering. According to the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) 64% of employers highlighted a shortage of engineers in the UK as a threat to their business, just 9 percent of the UK engineering workforce is female, which is the lowest across Europe. Hence, attracting, retaining and promoting women into engineering is not only essential to increase diversity but also vital for the future sustainability of the industry.
One woman who was interviewed by the (WES) went on to say the perception of roles in engineering is that they entail a lot of hard, laborious work, and are best suited to men. There is a concern about low pay and limited career options too. Another woman mentioned that her parents tried to discourage her from pursuing engineering as a profession. They assumed it meant she would become a mechanic and couldn’t see how she could build a career within the field. With friends referring to her role as a man’s job and another woman speaking about how someone asked her if she wore a hard hat and rigger boots to work, it’s clear that there is still a male stereotype surrounding the field and until we change this stereotype we will struggle to meet the demands. If you think about other fields such as Finance and Law, there is a strong representation of women working throughout each sector and without them they would be under severe pressure.
Is it a big step for a woman to pursue a career in engineering? Judging on the interviews carried out by the (WES), yes it is a big step. However, if we act in the right manor by educating women, men, friends and family, creating an awareness of what engineering actually is, this will help to increase the support for both males & females in their pursuit of becoming an engineer. Breaking the mould is a big step, once we get women engineers to speak out openly and honestly out about what the industry is actually like, removing the ‘stigma’ that is attached, it will make it much more appealing for other women to follow in their footsteps.