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Keeping more women in engineering will be instrumental in rebuilding the UK economy

Keeping more women in engineering will be instrumental in rebuilding the UK economy

Credit: Adobe

4 min read

Engineering can set an example to the rest, and show the benefits of creating an environment where everyone can succeed.

Earlier this month, we celebrated International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Engineering is a key sector we are working with to remove the barriers stopping women in the industry reaching their full potential and I am delighted to be able to discuss this on the The Engineering a Better World Podcast from The House magazine and the IET.

With the sector facing a huge skills shortfall, a massive opportunity presents itself. EngineeringUK estimates a shortage of between 37,000 - 59,000 engineers.

At the same time, women make up only 12% of engineers. Ensuring women are properly represented would be good for the industry and the economy, as well as being the right thing to do.

Industry bodies have found gender bias in recruitment and promotion processes.

Removing this bias can have a huge impact. I urge employers to use skills-based assessments and structured interviews to ensure that every interviewee is assessed under the same conditions, and exclusively on their ability to do the job.

The Royal Academy for Engineering highlighted a lack of flexible working, particularly in senior roles, leading to women taking career breaks.

We know this often leads to negative impacts on progression - 57% of female engineers drop off the register of professional engineers by age 45, compared to just 17% of male engineers.

Addressing this issue is critical not only to ensure women can continue their careers in the sector but also to help women to progress.

We know from research that a lack of quality flexible working has a negative impact on women’s participation in the labour market, leading to women reducing hours or taking career breaks.

Flexible working is just one way the sector can support its employees. This doesn’t just mean allowing employees to work from home, although that is a useful option.

Employers can introduce many other options like job sharing, or increasing the number of part-time senior roles.

I’m calling on all STEM industries to continue championing gender equality and introduce innovative measures and make a meaningful, lasting change.

This last step seems a particularly important one for engineering with 17% of female engineers in the sample work part time, compared to 2% of men.

The Government has published guidance highlighting practical steps employers can take that actually work to increase diversity, this includes promoting family friendly policies, transparency when it comes to promotion, pay and reward processes and making sure recruitment is carried out in a fair and open way.

These changes will help organisations keep skilled workforces together, ensuring they are happier, which in turn can lead to an increase in productivity and revenue.

And this is an important factor in why we are trying to dismantle these barriers to women. As Minister for Women I of course champion gender equality and fairness, but this is about simple economics.

McKinsey found that organisations in the top 25% for gender diversity on their executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability. Keeping more women in engineering will be instrumental in rebuilding the UK economy.

We have all seen that in the face of adversity, business has adapted incredibly well.

I hope that we can harness these positive changes by business as a result of COVID-19, flexible working is definitely one of those.

I’m calling on all STEM industries to continue championing gender equality and introduce innovative measures and make a meaningful, lasting change.

Engineering can lead this change, setting an example to the rest, and showing the benefits of creating an environment where everyone can succeed.

Click here to listen to Increasing the 12%: why we need more women in engineering, with Amanda Solloway MP, Baroness Berridge, Ella Podmore and Jo Foster

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Engineering a Better World

Can technology deliver a better society? In a new podcast series from the heart of Westminster, The House magazine and the IET discuss with parliamentarians and industry experts how technology and engineering can provide policy solutions to our changing world.

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