Why We Need More Women in Engineering and Construction

Why We Need More Women in Engineering and Construction

Take a look around you. How many of your colleagues, managers, employees, business partners or other leaders in your sector are women? More to the point, how many of them are in qualified engineering or technical roles? If you are in the engineering, construction or building services sectors, the chances are it’s very few.

Just 11% of the engineering sector in the UK is made up of women and the UK has the lowest percentage of engineers that are female in Europe! And just 14% of the workforce in construction are women!It may not have crossed your mind before that this is a problem, but evidence suggests there are many benefits to a gender-diverse workforce, and the UK has a growing shortfall in the number of qualified people available to fill engineering roles.

This blog, in support of International Women in Engineering Day, looks more closely at why there aren’t more women in engineering and construction and why that needs to change.

What is ‘International Women in Engineering Day’?

International Women in Engineering Day is the only day in the calendar that celebrates women in engineering and allied professions. The annual event, held on the 23rd June each year, consists of hundreds of events, from talks, tours and debates to competitions, virtual site visits, videos and campaigns. It was first launched by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) in 2014.

WES is a charity and a professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists. The charity raises awareness of the gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields and supports and inspires women to achieve as engineers, scientists and as leaders.

Why Aren’t There More Female Engineers in the UK?

The lack of women engineers in the UK is complex. It can’t be written off as a global problem. For example, in China, 40% of engineers are women, and Spain has a relatively equal number of men and women engineers.

Several obstacles to women include sexism, a lack of role models, gender pay differences and concerns over progression prospects. A recent report By Engineering and Technology on the real reason female engineers are still a rarity in the UK, says the biggest issue is a perception that engineering isn’t a desirable career path. This, the report reveals, is a growing problem for boys too. Engineering in the UK is simply not showcasing itself as a desirable career path to either genders. Conversely, in other countries, engineering as a career is held in high esteem.

There is a myth and belief that women don’t belong in certain sectors. People, for example, instinctively think of construction as a man’s job and many women just don’t see the appeal of working in male dominated environments. Sexism – wolf whistling and inappropriate comments – are also still a problem. Women in construction are having to put up with unconscious bias. This isn’t conducive to boosting female construction workers or attracting more women into engineering roles.

Why Do We Need More Women in Engineering Roles?

You may be thinking gender doesn’t make any difference – so long as the person you employ is able to perform well in their job. But gender diversity opens a wider talent pool. 

There is a considerable skills shortfall in engineering jobs. A fact-check exercise by Engineering UK on The State of Engineering in 2018 identified an annual shortfall of 59,000 engineering graduates and technicians to fill core engineering roles. The simple fact is we need more engineers. Businesses need them and so does the UK economy.

Having both men and women in your business allows for better problem solving, creativity and innovation. Employing a variety of talents and personalities in your business can make a huge difference to productivity and your bottom line. 

As we build back better post-pandemic, industry bodies are calling for change. The BESA (the Building Engineering Services Association) wants to see a greater focus on women engineers to help deliver the economic recovery.

How Do We Close the Gender Gap in Engineering and Construction?

Collectively, we need to further improve our understanding of the barriers for women in pursuing pathways into STEM careers. The gender pay gap is one of them. For example, surveying roles in construction pay men on average £11,000 more per annum than women in a similar role.

Encouraging women into STEM education and creating awareness about STEM roles is a mission for Kristen Bodley, CEO of WES. In an article for The Engineer, she says, “…there is a lack of awareness about what engineering actually involves, how broad it is as an area of study, and just how much it impacts everyday life.” She feels a misconception that engineering is a non-creative, male-orientated industry has affected women’s interest in the sector.

Turning the tide isn’t going to be easy, but business has a role to play. Companies must do more to actively recruit women into apprenticeships and support them in further education and training.

Companies within the STEM sector do now recognise the strength of the business case for diversity. The field services industry, for example, is starting to realise that female employees, from office staff to engineers, bring unique skills and much-needed diversity to their businesses.

Joblogic, provider of facilities management software to the HVAC, electrical, engineering and construction sectors, are celebrating International Women in Engineering Day. Are you?

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