Engineering continues to be an industry that is heavily male dominated. Figures from The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) show that only 21.8% of engineers in the UK are women. It has been suggested that less women take up jobs in Engineering because of years of gender stereotyping, societal, cultural, and educational obstacles that actively discriminated against women. Employing proactive steps, we can nurture a diverse, inclusive, engineering industry that not only welcomes but encourages female participation and advancement. In this insightful blog, we’ll delve into successful strategies aimed at both attracting and retaining female engineering talent within the industry, offering valuable insights and actionable tips.

Encouraging women to pursue engineering

The journey towards engineering often begins in schools and continues through universities. By showing women that engineering is an exciting and achievable career choice, we can challenge outdated beliefs about who belongs in the field. Currently, only 23% of engineering students are women, there are ways this can be increased. Integrating engineering concepts into early education, celebrating successful women engineers, and encouraging participation in engineering-related extracurricular activities can spark their interest. Additionally, offering scholarships and grants specifically for women studying engineering can ease financial barriers and promote inclusivity. While companies may not influence  school curricular, they can still play a vital role in encouraging and supporting women’s interest in engineering. This can involve partnering with schools and universities, providing work experience opportunities, offering financial support, and ensuring that educational programs align with industry needs. Together, these efforts can help more women see engineering as a viable and rewarding career path.

Creating a women-friendly work environment

While there’s significant attention on getting women in engineering roles, a greater challenge lies in retaining them. Engineering companies must employ diverse strategies to both attract and keep female talent. Establishing a work culture that is inclusive and supportive for women engineers is crucial. This entails more than just fair pay; it involves ensuring equitable representation in leadership positions and actively addressing unconscious bias in hiring. Implementing mentorship programs, offering sponsorship opportunities, and providing bias-awareness training can all enhance workplace inclusivity. It is not just about inviting women to participate; it is about ensuring they have a genuine presence and influence.

Career development in Engineering

To sustain the progress of female talent in engineering, prioritising career advancement is essential. Currently one-third of women older than 35 are still in junior positions in the engineering industry. Reports indicate that 40% of female engineers feel they are not treated fairly, while 60% believe men have easier career advancement. Despite the significant challenge, the potential reward is substantial: a flourishing and diverse engineering workforce that mirrors our society. Promotion serves as a crucial mechanism for retaining women in engineering by providing tangible recognition of their skills and contributions. When women see opportunities for advancement within their field, they are more likely to remain engaged and committed to their careers.

The gender pay gap in Engineering

To address the gender gap in engineering, promoting more women to senior positions is vital. However, this requires expanding recruitment of women engineers at entry-level and increasing graduate and apprentice hires. To allow women to be promoted, there needs to fresh talent coming through for junior levels. This is where companies working with education can help promote diversity in engineering. Network Rail is actively working to enhance gender representation at the entry level. By broadening recruitment efforts to attract more female talent at the junior level, Network Rail aims to address the gender pay gap in the long run.

Promoting work-life balance for female engineers

Achieving a harmonious balance between work and personal life is a pressing concern for many women in engineering. Women can seek more flexibility from employers, on issues such as maternity leave, which will help to attract and retain more female talent. Women leave the tech industry at a 45% higher rate than men. Employers need to acknowledge the dual responsibilities that these engineers often juggle outside of their professional sphere. Unfortunately, many engineering firms still prioritise traditional work patterns over flexible arrangements, hindering women’s ability to maintain a sustainable work-life balance. Embracing flexibility through initiatives like part-time or job-share roles, remote work options, and comprehensive family leave policies can make engineering careers more accessible to women. For example, accommodating parents who need to leave work early to pick up their children from school demonstrates a commitment to supporting employees’ personal lives. These initiatives not only enhance job satisfaction but also encourage greater loyalty to the organisation. Thus, developing a workplace culture that values and facilitates work-life balance is essential for empowering women in engineering.

It is a multifaceted approach to improving the representation of women in engineering, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re looking to expand your engineering team or enhance your existing one, get in touch today to see how we can support your needs.