Engineering The Future: Exploring The Lack Of Women In The Industry
Great engineers have never been in such short supply. Here in the UK, projected figures suggest that, as a nation, we’ll need to recruit 2 million new engineers during the next decade.
Nobody can contest the demand for high quality professionals to enter into the industry, however the issue of recruitment remains one of the largest threats to great British engineering. This problem is further exacerbated by the extreme lack of females entering into the sector.
Statistics show that 94% of the engineering workforce are male. As an industry, it’s crucial that we address this balance. Not only in order to meet the demand for jobs, but also to remain able to provide the very best solutions for clients. Both sexes bring different capabilities and vision to the table. By balancing the workforce we position ourselves to successfully solve the problems of the future and cater successfully to client requirements.
To counter the problem, we must first understand its multifaceted nature. Is it that women are reluctant to join the engineering world? Or could the problem be that a notoriously male dominated industry is intimidating for female recruits?
We have to consider the fact that, as a country, we perhaps deskill our female engineers from childhood. How many of our young girls are given toys such as Lego, Mechano, cars and building materials to play with? Compare this to the toy box of a boy. Boys are given what society regards as male toys.
These toys are known to help develop spatial intelligence and problem solving capabilities, therefore, the types of skills required to become an excellent future engineer. Meanwhile, our girls, their future chances already being affected by their gender, are developing their nurturing and social skills by traditionally playing with dolls and skipping ropes.
This message is, sadly, reinforced throughout educational establishments. Girls, having been deskilled during their early education, excel in the arts and humanities subjects at secondary level. They outshine the boys academically in both science and maths, mature more quickly and are much more likely to follow the rules.
Meanwhile, the boys are building strong social networks through sporting endeavours and their often boisterous, explorative behaviour is attributed to “boys being boys” whereas this behaviour would result in reprimand for their female counterparts. All the while the boys are developing those vital, on the job skills that great engineers require, whilst the girls are busy getting the grades on paper.
Could it be that their academic success is resulting in girls being recommended to take the more traditional, academically accepted, employment routes? Is a career advisor likely to suggest engineering to female students? As a nation, we must address the imbalances within our education system to truly level the playing field for both sexes in the future.
Furthermore, the profile of engineering must first be raised within our educational establishments and its dirty, manly facade, must but be eroded as inaccurate. Careers advisors and young people themselves, should be armed with the facts about the diverse and exciting nature of working within the sector.
Gearing Towards The Future
We must aim to recruit across a representative cross-section of society in order that we remain current and able to problem solve effectively; focussing on providing world leading solutions. Once recruited, we need to ensure that there are successful, supportive female mentors and role models, working in industry, to support the new wave of female engineers.
To that point, our parent company Cygnet Group has been taking the lead in the push for new female apprentices in the Engineering industry. Just recently, Cygnet Texkimp took on two new apprentice females, as apart of their excellent Apprenticeship Academy. We wish them all the best in their roles and offer our support to fruitful, thriving career in the sector.
By remaining in the male dominated past and continuing to alienate 50% of available recruits, the UK engineering sector risks its future. Engineering companies must launch a PR offensive in the coming years, in order to ensure that, when considering their future career options, engineering is an attractive option for young people with the appropriate skills, regardless of gender.