This policy statement looks at what can be done to address the shortfall of female engineers in the UK. It reviews the opportunities for both employers and employees within the engineering industry.
Engineering in the UK employs 2.3 million people, of which only 6.7% are female. UK universities produce 19,000 female Stem graduates each year, but only 15% choose to study engineering. Less than one in 10 professional engineers and 1 in 20 apprentice engineers are female.
This shortfall of female engineers needs to be addressed. Continents, including Asia and South America, successfully nurture talent by viewing engineering jobs as a way to make a difference, resulting in a more diverse talent pipeline, which leads to a competitive advantage within the marketplace.
A large number of companies state that diversity is important. The best-performing companies are diverse and demonstrate commitment to understanding the value that their employees provide. Companies that can nurture and look after their talent make better use of their employees’ enthusiasm to deliver an improved service to their customers. Women working within male-dominated professions dislike being associated with positive discrimination, as they would rather be selected on the basis of individual ability.
Engineering companies can help by targeting talented women (and men) with mid-career offers such as mentoring, sponsorship, development and training.
- All employers need to review their payment structures to address gender pay gaps, ensuring engineering and manufacturing is seen as a fair and equal career choice for female employees.
- The Department for Education should work closely with industry, Higher and Further Education providers to fill the UK’s future pipelines with a diverse selection of engineers, driven by scientific and technological innovation to develop future prosperity within the UK.
- Employers must establish career plans with staff, recognising different needs and mechanisms to manage extended leave, eg Keep in Touch days. Retaining employees through these mechanisms will encourage individuals’ long-term commitment to their company. By having two-way communication, employees can take responsibility for their career development and companies can sustain their talent pipeline.