Women in Engineering
Engineering continues to be a male dominated profession despite real prospects for women. So how can we encourage more females into the industry?
Engineering is one of the most diverse areas to work in, as engineers find new ways of doing things and developing creative solutions to modern problems, ultimately creating a better lifestyle for us all.
But reports show that men continue to have all the fun and dominate the industry; figures from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) suggest that the number of women pursuing a career in engineering is in decline, while worrying statistics report that out of 243,000 registered engineers only 7,608 of those are women – a mere three per cent, down from five per cent in 2008.
When girls don’t think they are welcome in a subject such as engineering, it means that some of the most talented individuals are lost to this employment sector.
Despite women’s interest and success in science and maths at GCSE level, there is evidence that they still feel out of place in these knowledge-based sectors – this is backed up by the fact that just four per cent of UK engineering apprentices are female.
Progress definitely seems to have stalled despite the industry’s efforts to work with schools and colleges to promote interest in young people, and especially women, in a technical career.
Within the small number of women actually taking courses in engineering, it has been found that many students come from families with an engineering or technology background.
So why is the UK behind many countries in the number of women employed in the sector?
One of the main reasons is that women have negative associations with what they perceive as a male-dominated profession; reports have shown that progress is indeed slow in promoting engineering as an attractive career option for women, and that more needs to be done by workers in the sector to better portray what they do, as many pupils found it hard to imagine a career in the industry.
The industry’s reputation took a further battering earlier this year, when an engineering firm in Italy made almost half of its workforce redundant – selecting only women for redundancy.
So how can we encourage more young women into engineering? One school of thought is to expose them to other confident females already training in the field.
Others believe that the best way forward is to influence youngsters early in life and show them that engineering is an exciting career offering real prospects and opportunities - girls should be encouraged as well as boys to be more practical if that’s where their interest lies.
So ladies, why not be at the forefront of ensuring that women are taken seriously in this industry, by becoming part of a growing female workforce in a predominantly male world?
The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) which has been inspiring technical women since 1919, regularly offers a range of bursaries and grants, depending on the funds available, as well as advice and support. Visit wes.org.uk for more information.
The IET also have some postgraduate scholarships worth up to £10,000. Students must have started their course prior to submitting an application.
All engineering institutions have grants – most are untapped every year. Visit Engineering Council at engc.org.uk.
The UKRC (theukrc.org) works with a wide variety of organisations to offer training, consultancy and other support to female staff, and have experience of working with women in all areas of science, engineering and technology (SET) to strengthen their careers and progression. You can also join their online environment for women in SET.
Knowyourplace.org.uk is an informative website focusing on non-traditional careers for women and girls, which contains information, advice and case studies.
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