If you are a woman, this creative, diverse and exciting industry WANTS YOU!
Engineering offers amazing career opportunities and a vast range of exciting and interesting jobs, where you can contribute to life-changing technologies that make a real difference in the world.
The Royal Academy of Engineering says the UK needs to at least double the number of engineering graduates by 2020 to meet demand. The industry requires an extra 830,000 professionals to replace those who left engineering and construction during the recession, and many of these new recruits could be women.
Helen Wollaston is Director of the WISE campaign (wisecampaign.org.uk), which aims to push the presence of female employees in engineering up to 30% by 2020.
‘The main problem is that girls often have a limited view of engineering,’ she says. ‘The fact that it’s both a trade and a profession, with opportunities at many levels and across many industries, is a real challenge to get across. Also, the current shortage of women in engineering means there aren’t enough female role models.’
Another issue is the lack of understanding about creative opportunities, she adds.
‘Art and design is a key part of engineering, so someone who enjoys those subjects and can keep up with maths could have a great career combining both. Too few young people realise this.’
Getting young children interested in engineering at school is the first step towards creating more engineers for the future, and this needs to be encouraged by parents and teachers.
‘Research shows that at least 70% of the influence on young people’s career choices comes from parents. We also need more schools to encourage girls to study physics and maths,’ says Helen.
The Women’s Engineering Society has launched the Sparxx campaign (sparxx.org.uk) to tackle this problem by encouraging girls who express an early interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects).
‘When a boy expresses an interest in engineering, then his parents, teachers and peers will see this as a “normal” choice and encourage his progress,’ says Dawn Bonfield, President of the Women’s Engineering Society.
‘For girls, however, the opposite is often true. Rather than being encouraged, they may be put off by friends, their parents and Teachers, which makes their progress much less likely.
‘We provide them with information and advice on careers, competitions, open days, exhibitions, shows, role models, summer schools, home activities, great engineering projects, educational opportunities and jobs. Giving them this support and encouragement helps them to progress towards a future in a STEM career.’
Many female engineers are also taking up the mantle to encourage more young women into the field by becoming ambassadors for STEM careers.
‘I am so passionate about the industry that the opportunity to speak to school children – especially girls – about the wonderful careers available in engineering is very rewarding,’ says one such ambassador, Natalie Desty, 31, Manager for Matchtech, a leading engineering recruitment agency.
She continues: ‘It is so important to dispel the myths around engineering and to demonstrate the creative, innovative, progressive, professional and well-paid careers available within the sector.’
Educating women on the opportunities within engineering is one half of the battle. The other is improving the culture of diversity within companies themselves.
Jenny Young, Diversity Manager at the Royal Academy of Engineering, agrees that a more inclusive working culture is essential. ‘Engineering has been dominated by white British males, and that is still the case in the main. It’s vital that companies provide a working culture that is welcoming and rewarding for every kind of person a place where people feel they want to stay and grow.’
And many companies are doing just that: they are implementing female recruitment programmes, launching women’s networking schemes and encouraging existing engineers to become STEM mentors.
‘I have seen a lot of changes in the industry,’ says Natalie. ‘Although engineering is still struggling to make progress in diversity in terms of numbers, attitudes within the industry and initiatives to get more women involved have advanced a great deal.
‘Engineering is about design and innovation. It is starting to lose its heavy, dirty image, which historically has had a negative impact on how women perceive it. The women who I meet in the sector are proud to be working in engineering and contributing to some truly amazing projects.’
Engineering firms are keen to recruit women, not just because there’s a general skills shortage, but because they are recognising that diverse teams can produce more innovative ideas.
Natalie agrees: ‘There’s a large skills gap. Candidates who apply themselves will not only find they have a good job after school, college or university, but that they are in a sector where they can really develop their career.
‘Engineering is one of the most innovative, diverse and exciting careers out there. It offers plentiful opportunities to work on life-changing projects, have an impact on future economic development and contribute to a sector that is continually evolving.
‘I can’t think of another sector that offers all of the above and is actively marketing itself at women.
‘There has never been a better time to become an engineer.’
Visit wes.org.uk, engineergirl.org and wisecampaign.org.uk for more advice and inspiration.
Why be an Engineer?
• 98% of women Engineers find their jobs rewarding.
• 84% of female Engineers are either happy, or extremely happy, with their career choice.
• 79% said their colleagues and employers played an important role in helping them fit their career alongside their family life.
• It’s not about hard hats, engines or strength – it’s about problem solving.
• You could be creating and developing innovations that change the world. Apps, cars, spaceships and the internet were all created by Engineers.
• There are hundreds of specialisms, from nuclear power, to motoring, to designing roads.