Breaking Barriers: Empowering Women in Engineering

Next Friday, we will celebrate International Women's Day in Engineering, as we acknowledge and reflect on the persistent gender imbalance within the field. Despite significant progress, recruiting women into engineering remains a challenge. As recruiters, we believe it is crucial to understand the barriers that hinder women's participation in engineering and actively work towards creating a more inclusive environment.

Statistics from The Circular Board and the Women's Engineering Society (WES) shed light on the gender disparity in engineering. In the UK, women account for a mere 12% of engineers, while globally, they make up less than 30% of the engineering workforce. These numbers highlight the pressing need for concerted efforts to address the underrepresentation of women in this field.

Challenges in Recruiting Women:

1. Societal Stereotypes and Bias:

Deep-rooted societal stereotypes often discourage girls from pursuing careers in engineering. Persistent biases, such as the perception that engineering is a male-dominated field, dissuade women from considering it as a viable career option. Employers must actively challenge these stereotypes and promote engineering as an inclusive and diverse profession.

2. Lack of Role Models and Support Networks:

The absence of visible female role models and mentorship networks in engineering further exacerbates the recruitment challenge. By highlighting successful women engineers and facilitating mentoring programs, employers can inspire aspiring female engineers and provide them with the guidance and support they need to thrive in the field.

3. Educational Pipeline Discrepancies:

Unequal access to quality STEM education and limited exposure to engineering opportunities during school years contribute to the scarcity of women in engineering. Employers can collaborate with educational institutions to support initiatives that encourage girls to pursue STEM subjects, offer scholarships, and provide internships and apprenticeships to bridge the educational gap.

Solutions for Employers:

1. Fostering Inclusive Work Environments:

Employers must create inclusive workplaces where women feel valued and have equal opportunities for growth. Promoting diversity and gender equality through fair recruitment practices, unbiased job descriptions, diverse interview panels, and pay equity initiatives can attract and retain female talent.

2. Mentorship and Networking Programs:

Establishing mentorship programs that pair female engineers with experienced professionals can provide invaluable guidance and support. Employers can also facilitate networking opportunities, industry events, and conferences where women can connect, share experiences, and build professional relationships.

3. Addressing Work-Life Balance:

Employers should implement family-friendly policies such as flexible working hours, parental leave options, and support networks for working parents. These measures enable women to balance their personal and professional responsibilities, creating a supportive environment that fosters retention and career progression.

4. STEM Outreach and Education:

Collaborating with schools and colleges, employers can engage in outreach programs to promote engineering as an exciting and rewarding career choice for girls. By dispelling stereotypes, organising workshops, and providing mentorship, employers can inspire the next generation of female engineers.

5. Emphasising the Impact and Purpose of Engineering:

Highlighting the positive impact of engineering on society and underscoring the opportunity for women to contribute to meaningful projects can attract more female candidates. Employers should showcase the societal benefits and diverse career paths within engineering to motivate women to pursue this field.

What about Gen Z?

The lack of interest in pursuing engineering as a viable career option isn’t just a woman’s’ issue. Only 6% of Gen Z respondents expressed interest in pursuing a career in manufacturing/engineering, with the majority leaning towards other fields such as technology and IT. This shift in career preferences can be attributed to various factors, including a perceived lack of creativity and innovation in traditional engineering roles, limited exposure to the diverse applications of engineering, and a desire for careers that offer more immediate social impact. But let’s not delve into that just yet, stay tuned for our next blog on recruiting Gen Z to learn more insights on the topic.

Final thoughts

As we commemorate International Women's Day in Engineering, it is imperative for both employers and recruiters to act in attracting and hiring more women into the field. By collectively implementing these solutions, we can create a future where women are well-represented and empowered in the engineering industry. Together, let us break barriers and empower women to shape the future of engineering.

Happy International Women's Day in Engineering!

Keep an eye out for our follow-up blog where we will be exploring Gen Z, their particularities, their motivators, and how to win them over.