Stay or go. The experience of female engineers in early career

Engineering can no longer afford to remain a sector in which women who join the profession are expected to change their personality in order to 'fit in' - Peter Finegold, Head of Education and Skills, Policy Research

With women accounting for only 9% of the engineering workforce, the UK needs to recruit more female engineers. However, it also needs to hold on to those it already has. To achieve this employers and universities must make the working environment and culture more conducive and comfortable for women, so that there is less of a need to support female engineers to adapt and cope with an unaccommodating environment

Within a few years of gaining an engineering degree, just under half of UK female engineering graduates will have left the profession. By contrast, at the same stage, two-thirds of male engineers remain in the sector.


  1. The engineering community should devise and promote the adoption of agreed quality benchmarks for retaining female engineers in early-to-mid career — building on existing best practice, such as the RICS Inclusive Employer Quality Mark. Employers must promote a message that no employee should feel a need to ‘toughen up’ to be successful in their career.
    [Women’s Engineering Society, professional engineering institutions, engineering companies]
  2. The engineering community needs to identify and emulate how the most-effective companies address career ‘flashpoints’, such as return to work after maternity leave, through implementing strategies that work both for female employees and the employer. [Semta, professional engineering institutions, engineering companies]
  3. Employers should consult all employees annually, and in confidence, on their views
    about the fairness of staff recognition, reward, professional support and work social activity – and, where necessary, implement changes to bring about improvement. [HR directors in engineering companies]
  4. The academic engineering community should carry out a UK-wide study to characterise the experience of being a university engineering undergraduate. All Higher Education institutions should be encouraged to participate in the Athena SWAN charter which addresses all aspects of equality and diversity. [Engineering Professors’ Council, Deans of university engineering departments, professional engineering institutions Women’s Engineering Society]
  5. Careers education should be properly resourced to reflect its vital role in contributing to a successful Industrial Strategy. A quality national careers programme in schools would both encourage more women to pursue engineering and contribute to the reduction of attrition in early career.
    [Government Education Departments,


All reports and policies

Browse all our reports, policy statements, consultation responses and presidential addresses

View all

Have a question?

Contact our press team.