New figures reveal that women are not pursuing the engineering field in very large numbers. This is a concern given the fact that the engineering field is expected to grow over the next few years. If the field were to continue to support the UK economy it would need at least 96,000 new engineers and scientists by the year 2016.
The problem is that this large gender gap influences the amount of new engineers that are coming up through the ranks. As a specialist skills sector, it is important that everyone, regardless of gender, is encouraged to sign up for courses. In addition, women can bring special skills to the field such as better communication and collaboration, both of which are skills that are needed in the field of engineering.
At the moment the IET estimates that under 9% of all the UK engineers are women, and the UKRC (WISE Campaign) estimates the amount to be even lower at 7%. The numbers get worse the further up the chain you get as there are even fewer women in senior positions. Somewhere after graduation there is a significant change in the women that continue to pursue further electrical training and careers in the engineering sector as they make up 15% of graduates and 21% of postgraduates.
So the question is what happens after graduation? There are a wide range of reasons to explain why women might leave the field such as the long hours that are part of the job and the lack of part-time jobs. Many women also report feeling that their opinions are not heard the same way that the mens opinions are. It can be hard to gain respect and continue to forward their career when all males are in senior positions.
Despite this fact, large growth is needed in the field and research shows that diverse teams made up of both genders tend to make better decisions when it comes to mitigating risks and making sound financial decisions. As a result, several resources and programmes have been developed to help inspire more women to continue onwards in the field of engineering.
One such programme is the WiBSE which is a network that was built by a woman within the building services engineering industry. The network seeks to advise and support women that are seeking or have received have leadership role. It has an open membership so all are welcome to join, they even have a WiBSE LinkedIn Group.
Another organisation is WISE (Women in Science and Engineering). WISE seeks to inspire girls and women looking for a new career to consider a career in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering. The mission of WISE is to make sure that women make up 30% of the talent pool by the year 2020 helping to lead the UK to further economic growth in traditionally male dominated specialist areas.
While the Institution of Engineering and Technology champion WES, the Women's Engineering Society, in addition to hosting the IET's Young Woman of the Year Awards (YWE), which "honours the very best female engineers working in the UK today." Their aim is to celebrate achievements of women in the industry and highlight female role models within the field of engineering.