Every year the engineering sector faces a talent shortfall of around 59,000, and despite the continued growth as we work towards new digital innovations, the shortage of talent puts a strain on the sector.
One of the biggest contributors to this shortage is the lack of women in its workforce as it continues to be a male-dominated industry.
As it stands, only 12% of professional engineers in the UK are women according to Engineering UK, with only 21.8% working in the sector as a whole.
Although this is a global issue, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, as Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus have nearly 30%.
And engineering is not the only sector where there is a lack of female representation. STEM industries generally see the lowest count of female workers.
To combat this skill shortage, these sectors need to change their methods to work towards a more diverse workforce.
This should begin with the education system as girls soon become influenced by societal stereotypes from the very start of their educational journey.
The stats below show the percentage of girls who would consider a career in engineering from early adolescence. These stats clearly show how their interest deteriorates as they get older, so initiatives should start from the learning and training process through to the very moment they enter the workforce, as drop off rates increase the closer it gets to this end.
Companies within the sector also need to think of innovative ways to engage more women to join the sector and help to change the male sociocultural dynamic workplace when they get there.
Forward-thinking plans to shift corporate culture, revised recruiting methods, investing in employee training and giving employees greater flexibility are a few positive changes that could start this industry shift.
Positively though, we are making slow progress, as the 58,000 women who work as a professional engineer today has more than doubled since 2013, a 25% increase in the number of women engineers, and an 8.5% growth for the sector overall.
But more still needs to be done to make up for the minority. Not only will more diversity support the industry further by contributing to the national skills shortage, but it will also go a long way for companies and their employees as research shows that diversity encourages internal innovation and business growth.
Luckily, some organisations are helping to support this change. WISE and The Women's Engineering Society (WES) are campaigning to encourage more women into the field and are helping companies with their methods to adapt.
According to WISE, many of these campaigns have already made a huge difference as they say the UK is on target to reach 1 million women in STEM by 2020 and want employers to accelerate this drive.
So, even though we are making a step in the right direction, we are not there yet, and organisations need to realise that it won’t be solved by backing a onetime initiative or a cleverly marketed campaign.
These social stereotypes have been moulded over time so, to encourage diversity, it must be embedded into culture, maintained, and gradually become social normality to achieve a truly diverse engineering sector.
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