On June 23rd we’ll be supporting International Women in Engineering day, an international campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering.
We know that many of our clients are keen to increase the number of women working for them, yet women are still a noticeably smaller percentage of our candidate base.
Overall, women make up 46% of the UK workforce, but less than 1 in 10 of those working in engineering are women, the lowest percentage in Europe. Although things are changing, slowly, women are clearly still under represented in the world of engineering and manufacturing.
Despite many campaigns and initiatives the word doesn’t seem to be getting out there that engineering offers brilliant opportunities for all. We think there are three key areas that everyone working and supporting the engineering industry needs to focus on to change that:
Make engineering a more accessible career option: There is no doubt we need to encourage more young people to consider careers in engineering – both male and female. There has been some success in encouraging more young people to study STEM subjects, essential in progressing to a career in engineering. Yet, for some reason, this has not led to an increase in the number of people entering the sector. For example, only half of women with an engineering and technology degree are working in the industry. We need to think about how visible engineering is as a career option within schools and universities, and what awareness there is of what an ‘engineer’ actually does in order to encourage more people to apply for jobs in the sector.
We also have to accept that after years of being a male dominated industry some organisations need to work harder at making working environments as welcoming to female as it is to male employees.
Promote the range of roles: One of the aims of the Women’s Engineering Society is to bring attention to the wide range of career opportunities available in the engineering sector. A lot of the activity around increasing the number of women entering the industry has focussed on women changing their perception of the type of job they could do. Instead there should be more emphasis on promoting what’s great about working in engineering, and the many benefits, opportunities and experiences that are on offer.
Focus on abilities and values rather than the skills: A report from WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) in 2014 addressed one of the issues we believe is vital to solving this problem. They believe, as do we, that there is too much focus on what engineers ‘do’. The report suggests that the industry would be more successful in attracting women if it changed its focus, to concentrate on the type of people that are successful in engineering careers. WISE recommends creating a ‘person spec’ as well as a ‘job spec’ when talking about particular roles in engineering.
Our approach to recruitment is based exactly on that approach – we know that finding the right type of person for a role is much more important that the type of skills and experiences they have.