For the first time ever more than one million women are working in core STEM roles across the UK. However, there's still work to be done in increasing gender diversity in the engineering sector
Thanks in part to organisations such as WISE and the Women's Engineering Society (WES) who work to encourage more women into the sector; females now comprise more than 24% of the core-STEM workforce. The number of women in engineering roles has almost doubled over the last decade, from 25,000 to just over 50,000.
While this signifies excellent progress the campaign to encourage more females into engineering doesn't stop here.
Why more female engineers are needed
'Engineering is diverse, creative and exciting, and offers the opportunity to do something life - or even world changing, but the lack of women in the sector is a huge problem,' says Jo Foster, equality, diversity and inclusion manager at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).
'Our failure to attract enough women into engineering is contributing to the national skills shortage. There are so many global and local challenges that engineers need to crack, with not enough engineers available to do so.'
'There is a wealth of evidence which demonstrates that greater gender diversity makes companies more adaptable, more productive and more responsive to what their customers are telling them,' says Helen Wollaston, chief executive of WISE. 'It's clear that to get ahead in STEM, companies should be recruiting, retaining and developing female talent - and that failing to do so will mean being left behind.'
'We want to make it clear that engineering is a fantastic career for women and there are thousands of female engineers doing amazing things,' adds Jo. 'From designing our future cities and transport systems, to making advancements in healthcare technology and space exploration.'
Campaigns to encourage women into engineering
'There are fantastic initiatives out there that help to highlight the range of careers available in engineering, and shine a light on those already working in the industry,' explains Jo.
Here's just a sample of what's being done to inspire more young women into engineering roles.
- International Women in Engineering Day - Every year on 23 June this day focuses on and celebrates the outstanding achievements of female engineers. From debates and competitions to networking breakfasts and open days, events are held across the UK.
- WISE campaign - WISE enables and energises people in business, industry and education to increase the participation, contribution and success of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
- Top 50 Women in Engineering (WE50) - WE50 publicises the great things which women routinely achieve within engineering to both recognise women currently in the profession, and to inspire a new generation of women into the sector.
- People Like Me - Started by WISE and targeted at a younger audience, People Like Me aims to support the recruitment of girls into STEM subjects post-16 - particularly those not typically chosen, such as physics and engineering.
How women in the industry are recognised
- The IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards - These awards honour the very best early career female engineers working in the UK. Awards include Young Woman Engineer of the Year (YWE), the Mary George Memorial Prize for Apprentices and the Women's Engineering Society (WES) Prize.
- The Karen Burt Memorial Award - Each year WES asks professional institutions to nominate their best newly chartered female engineer. The award was introduced to encourage more women to aim for chartered engineer status.
- The WISE conference and awards - An opportunity to recognise inspiring organisations and individuals actively addressing the core concern of WISE - promoting STEM to girls and women.
Advice for aspiring female engineers
- Be confident in what you do - Adopt a 'can-do' attitude. It isn't always going to be easy, you'll be pushed out of your comfort zone, but that's the best way to develop and grow.
- Seek advice - 'Ask parents, teachers and lecturers if there's anyone you can talk to who is an engineer. Also talk directly to companies to find out if they offer work experience. WISE can help with this so speak to us,' says Helen.
- Ignore stereotypes - Stereotypes remain a prominent part of the engineering world only if they are acknowledged as a barrier. They need to be broken down and forgotten about. In the grand scheme of things if you're good in your area of expertise and if you believe in yourself, you can do anything.
- Encourage and champion other women - This is important as we need to work together to encourage other women in to engineering and show them that we understand their issues and barriers. By sharing your own experiences, fears and achievements, others will see engineering as a worthwhile and rewarding career choice.
Find out more
- Search postgraduate courses in engineering.
- Find out how to become an engineer.
- Learn more about graduate engineering jobs.
- Read about the biggest challenges facing the engineering sector.