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Only a quarter of girls aged 16 to 19 would ever consider an engineering career

Joseph Flaig

A female engineer plans a project (Credit: Shutterstock)
A female engineer plans a project (Credit: Shutterstock)

The engineering sector is “missing out on great talent” and women are missing exciting careers because of opinions formed as teenagers, a new report has found.

Only 25% of girls aged 16-19 would ever consider a career in engineering compared to 52% of boys the same age, according to Engineering UK’s Gender Disparity in Engineering.

Interest in becoming an engineer is consistently lower for girls aged 11-19, with the number of pupils considering a career in the sector dropping steadily over the teenage years.

Women make up only 12% of the engineering workforce. As well as lower reported interest, the disparity is largely due to girls dropping out of the engineering “education pipeline” at every level despite performing better in STEM subjects, Engineering UK said.

“The gender imbalance in engineering means we are missing out on great talent which… [the sector] can ill afford to do,” said CEO Mark Titterington.

Figures estimating the annual shortfall of engineers in the UK vary, but Engineering UK previously put it at 69,000. Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said estimates show a need for up to 56,000 annually.

“Women are also generally missing out on really exciting and impactful careers in engineering and contributing solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges,” said Titterington. “This needs to change and for that to happen we need to do more to show girls, at the earliest age possible, what modern engineering is all about and how they can follow what they love through these kind of careers.”

He added: “We know that participating in hands-on activities and speaking to an engineer have a positive impact on young people’s knowledge of engineering jobs and that is particularly true for girls. We want to build on that with sustained outreach and engagement activity, together with supporting communications campaigns such as ‘This is Engineering’, to inspire the next generation of girls to become engineers.”

Once at engineering companies however, women still face disparity. PE analysis of gender pay gap data discovered 72 engineering-related businesses that pay men at least 35% more on average compared to women.

The Royal Academy, UCL and Cummins contributed to the Gender Disparity in Engineering report, which is online here.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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