17th June Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

I’ve always been a real advocate for welcoming more women into our industry and I jump at the chance to celebrate and support women in construction. Which is why, when days dedicated to just that come around, I think it’s extremely important everyone gets involved.

National Women in Engineering Day (NWED), which takes place next Thursday, highlights the opportunities available for women in engineering. The event takes place every year on 23 June and aims to raise the profile of women in engineering across the world. It’s your chance to get involved with this year’s theme of #RaisingProfiles by sharing stories about successful women within industry.

There’s always disputes about diversity in the industry, mainly around gender imbalance. We’ve always struggled with the growing gender gap, but recent statistics show the imbalance goes far beyond the number of people working in the industry. The gender gap at universities, even at admissions stage, is growing. Whilst women show more of an interest into going into higher education at a young age and are more likely to attend university, they aren’t studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects, which will result in them working in our industry.

We attended a debate recently questioning whether the industry has and implements the policies to best achieve diversity. The panel included representatives from across the North East civil engineering industry as well as guests from outside the industry who wanted to share their opinions on the topic. Among the panellists, was our Generation4Change (G4C) chair, Natalie Keyes, who delivered her opinion on equality, gender, race and religion. It was great to hear the opinion from both a young person and female who is up and coming in her field.

UCAS statistics show that females only make up 17.4 per cent of applicants to engineering courses, and a third of women are ‘put off’ careers in STEM because they think they’re too male dominated – which is ironic because they wouldn’t be if more women would just take the leap into STEM subjects.

I can’t stress the importance of supporting young people, encouraging them to pursue their passion and find a career that is right for them. The industry is in high demand of skilled engineers to address the shortfall we’re expecting over the next ten years. Encouraging women into engineering careers will increase diversity and inclusion, and fill skills shortages – it will just be a bonus if some of them were women. We need to look to the future, and realise that it lies with the youth of today, and it includes more women!