The research, released yesterday (3 March) by EngineeringUK, found that the number of women in engineering roles increased from 562,000 in 2010 to 936,000 in 2021, during which time the engineering workforce expanded from 5.3m to 5.6m.
The number of women in engineering roles continued to rise even when the total number of people working in engineering fell in 2020 and 2021, related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UK engineering sector has consistently struggled to increase the proportion of women, with poor representation of women in senior roles, negative stereotypes, and the desirability of engineering as a career all commonly cited as potential barriers.
The new research found that female engineers are more likely to be in ‘related’ rather than ‘core’ engineering roles, and often work in industries outside of what is traditionally deemed to be the engineering sector.
The proportion of women working in engineering roles within the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities increased from 8.5% to 11.5% between 2010 and 2021, for example, while the proportion of women in engineering roles within construction has remained stubbornly low, rising from 2.3% to just 4.7%.
Rates of change were higher at the associate and technical professional levels than at managerial, director and senior official level, according to the report, which was released ahead of International Women’s Day next Tuesday (8 March).
“It’s great to see an increase of women working in engineering roles, particularly for International Women’s Day, with almost 370,000 more women in those roles in 2021 compared with in 2010,” said Dr Hilary Leevers, chief executive of EngineeringUK.
“The fact that women represent only 16.5% of those working in engineering should still be a major concern to the engineering sector. We hope that our analysis stimulates more exploration of how we can do better – why are women more likely to work in engineering outside of the engineering sector than in it? What changes have happened in some areas of engineering to make them more attractive to women? What can we do to bring more female engineers back into engineering?
She added: “We need to ensure that engineering is a career choice that attracts the next generation of young women, and that we respond to the needs of women who have left the engineering workforce and actively bring them back. Engineering businesses and organisations recognise these needs and are working together more effectively to learn how to improve our efforts. I am optimistic that by learning and working together, we can quicken the pace of change and achieve the diverse and insightful workforce needed for the UK to thrive.”
Want the best engineering stories delivered straight to your inbox? The Professional Engineering newsletter gives you vital updates on the most cutting-edge engineering and exciting new job opportunities. To sign up, click here.
Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.