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Where are all the women?

08 Nov 2018
This year, we’ve witnessed a number of campaigns and events with a clear focus to empower women and raise awareness about their rights within society on a global scale. From the #MeToo movement, to the 100th anniversary of the suffrage; women are gaining momentum and are determined to create positive change. 

Despite this progress, there is still plenty of room for improvement. One area that is awaiting change, is the workplace, where some industries continue to face severe gender imbalance. The lack of women working in the field of engineering is particularly alarming. Regularly the topic of conversation in mainstream news, the poor underrepresentation of women in engineering positions is a well-known problem. In fact, it was recently found that only 15.1 percent of engineering undergraduates in the UK are women. However, the question a couple of questions still remain. Firstly, what steps can we take to protect the future of engineering, and more importantly, how can we attract more women to the industry? Spencer Ogden investigates.

Become a pioneer

Engineering has always been viewed as a male-dominated industry and one that has little room for women to grow or succeed. Over time, this misconception has manifested, which has caused many women to avoid applying for jobs and walk away from the prospect of joining the industry entirely.
 
Yet, in the UK alone, engineering has become a lucrative sector and now generates 23 percent of the UK’s total revenue. So, why can’t women take advantage of supporting this profitable industry? The simple answer is, they can. Where there this is under-representation – there is an opportunity. While there are plenty of men working across the engineering field, now is the perfect time for women to challenge the status quo and make an impact on the industry. So, how do we re-engage this audience and firmly establish engineering as a fulfilling career for women?
 

She means business

Without female role models setting an example, it’s hard for incoming talent to visualize a defined career path to follow. Giving emerging female managers and senior leaders a visible platform will slowly change the face of the industry. You’ll be pleased to know that many engineering disciplines are transforming for the better. While progress may be slow, there are women who are leading from the front. Pioneering women who have already made significant progress and are excelling in their respective professions include Prachi Gupta, director of engineering at LinkedIn, Meredith Westafer, senior industrial engineer at Tesla, and Carol Leung, engineering manager at Airbnb, to name a few.
 

Meeting demand

Like many other industries, engineering is facing an impending skills gap with a large proportion of the workforce approaching retirement. In response to this crisis, organisations and companies have been increasing their efforts to deliver creative initiatives to reduce existing barriers, to draw the interest of talented women into engineering.
 
For instance, The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) is a charitable organisation that provides a professional networking platform for women engineers, scientists, and technologists, offering professional development and support. WES holds a number of events each year, including a student conference where young aspiring engineers can explore employer perspectives and pathways to technical leadership.
 

Empower through education

Schools and universities alike need to take responsibility for re-educating women about the various exciting career opportunities that engineering has to offer.
 
Exploring partnerships with prominent engineering firms that have the capacity to facilitate safe site visits where students can witness the sheer scale and scope of power plants is certainly a possible solution. These same partnerships can also pave the way for ambassador and mentorship programmes. Pairing young women with experienced female engineers is an effective way of building supportive relationships and networking. Brunel university currently offers women engineering students a mentoring scheme where they are connected with professionals working in the field.


Spencer Ogden is actively recruiting for many industry-leading engineering clients. You can view all of our latest opportunities across a number of sectors here