Opinion: Engineering equality in a thriving sector

Opinion: Engineering equality in a thriving sector

By Louise Geekie, Project Director, Croft Additive Manufacturing

With an industry contributing more than £450 billion to the country’s GDP every year, the UK has an engineering sector that leads the way in many regards. However, despite its global reputation and accomplishments, there are a number of critical issues that need addressing by all stakeholders across the board.

One of the most pressing of these is, arguably, also the most visible. Of the millions of professionals employed by engineering enterprises, less than 10 per cent are women, with only 6 per cent of registered engineers and technicians being female. Alarmingly, this has resulted in the UK having the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in all of Europe.

The problem is, of course, a historical one but it’s only recently that things have started to change significantly. When I left school 30 years ago it was practically unheard of for a woman to go into an engineering career. My father, a civil engineer, explained that women were not treated well within the industry and, concerned about my chances of success, advised for me to avoid the field entirely.

Although many steps are being taken to ensure there is much less stigmatism towards female engineers, industry figures suggest that the UK still has a long way to go if it is to completely rid itself of inequality in STEM careers.

Louise Geekie, Project Director at Croft Additive Manufacturing

The Women’s Engineering Society suggests that more than 80 per cent of female engineers in the UK are either happy or extremely happy with their career choice. Unfortunately, it seems that this positivity is not trickling down to the younger generations. The latest statistics from industry body, EngineeringUK, indicate that females make up just a fifth of those currently studying A-level maths and less than 13 per cent of applicants applying for an engineering degree. When we consider that the UK has a severe and growing skills shortage it’s clear that something needs to be done if the country is to secure the future of its engineering sector.

Changing perceptions on a national level will naturally require a collaborative approach. We will need to start seeing more women at all levels of the supply chain, acting as strong, positive role models on an equal footing with their male counterparts. There are very few female engineers positioned as shining examples throughout the wider industry. By drawing more attention to the successes of these professionals and the benefits of studying STEM subjects, we can help encourage more girls to consider engineering as a career.

The end goal should be that gender is invisible in the workplace and once this has been accomplished, the whole country will be able to reap the rewards. EngineeringUK’s figures state that attracting more women into working in STEM could contribute an additional £2 billion to the economy.

By making the most of existing female engineers, we can make significant steps towards dispelling gender discrimination and stamping out inequality within the sector.

For more information about Louise and Croft Additive Manufacturing visit www.croftam.co.uk