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Women in Engineering (Consultant Blog 3)

Posted by Georgie Betts on 3/10/2019

Investment by employers and government to educate and engage with young women, particularly from an early age, is key to unlocking their engineering talent, says Andy Coppock, senior recruitment consultant at Russell Taylor Group.

WITH more than seven years’ experience of recruiting Project Controls and Commercial professionals into the UK engineering sector, I can see first-hand the struggle that my clients and the industry have to attract and retain the talent needed to deliver our ever-demanding Infrastructure projects. In my view, this shortage will only become further exasperated by the negative effects that Brexit could potentially have on our supply chains and workforce.

The only way we can hope to have enough resource in the years to come is to educate, employ and retain talent from the whole UK workforce without prejudice. And the key to to unlocking this talent is to engage with women who want to be engineers.

Engineering is a very much male-dominated industry - however, the women who are successfully breaking into the sector report good things. Although barriers into the sector are significant for them, statistics, once achieved, demonstrate that their career satisfaction is high; more than 80 per cent of female engineers are either happy or extremely happy with their career choice and 98 per cent find their job rewarding, according to a 2013 survey by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Yet despite good prospects, the number of women working in the sector remains worryingly low. Women make up just 12.3 per cent of all engineers in the UK and only one in five of jobs are held by women in the wider engineering sector as a whole.

Attracting more female talent to the UK engineering sector – and retaining those people – is vital for economic growth and financial stability. Britain suffers from an acute shortage of engineers – 1.8 million new engineers and technicians are needed by 2025 – and compounding this, women often fail to continue to progress their engineering careers.

Current statistics show that among girls aged 11-14, almost half (46.4 per cent) would consider a career in engineering compared with 70.3 per cent of boys. But this drops to 25.4 per cent of girls aged 16-18 compared with 51.9 per cent of boys. At A-level, girls make up just 22 per cent of physics students.

However, girls outperform boys in engineering fields of study. In all STEM A-levels, except chemistry, more girls get A*-C grades than boys and this pattern continues at degree level. Almost 80 per cent of female engineering students will get a first or an upper second-class degree, compared with 74.6 per cent of male students.

These statistics clearly highlight that the poor ratios of female engineers certainly cannot be attributed to a lack of knowledge or ability. But maybe it’s a historic mindset and a throwback to cultural expectations plus how we engage with female students and the opportunities that are available for female engineers throughout their careers.

There must be continual investment from employers and the UK government to engage with those in their early careers. Coupled with this, there needs to be a step change in organisations which hold antiquated and prejudiced mindsets of what constitutes a “good engineer”.

Within my specialist area of recruitment – Projects Controls and Commercial – I am happy to say that I have a very good base of clients who actively push diversity to the very top of their agenda. I have a large proportion of clients who recognise the value in a diverse workforce and the benefits of genuine “equal opportunities” within their respective organisational structures.

Clearly, this is a work in progress for the UK as a whole but I am pleased that we at least appear to be taking steps in the right direction!

Anyone who would like to discuss the opportunities Russell Taylor Group has available for engineers - regardless of gender! - can get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to chat.