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The Hard Hat Index tracks how engineers are portrayed in the media

Amit Katwala

(Credit: iStock)
(Credit: iStock)

The hard hat has been a stereotypical symbol of engineering, but times are changing.

According to the Sainsbury Management Fellows Hard Hat Index, there’s been a 19.6% drop in the use of hard hats in images of engineers in the media.

The Index has been tracking 17 engineering magazines for the last five years, and this is the first year time the figure has dropped in articles about engineers. There were 127 hard hats in engineering articles this year, compared to 158 in the previous 12 months.

“The ‘no hard hats’ message is gaining momentum,” said SMF president David Falzani. “In the last couple of years, high-profile people in the industry have spoken about the over-use of hard hats, and competitions are being run by institutions to raise awareness of the problem and to inspire the use of better images.”

He said it was important to show diverse images of engineers to highlight the range of jobs available across all industry sectors.

However, although journalists are getting the message, it doesn’t seem to have tricked through to advertising. The use of hard hats in commercial messaging in engineering magazines has soared from 99 hard hats in 2016 to 129 this year.

Professional Engineering's brief search of stock image library iStock for the term 'engineer' revealed 23 pictures featuring hard hats on the first page of results.

hard hat graph


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