15/06/2018 – National Women in Engineering Day – What More Can We Do?

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

National Women in Engineering Day (NWED), which takes place next Saturday, 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 #RaisingTheBar.

The day takes place at a time when it has never been more important to highlight the opportunities for women in the industry. According to a Women’s Engineering Society survey, only 11% of the engineering workforce is female. That figure is shockingly low, but when you compare it to 9% in 2015, it is rising, just very slowly.

The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe and I’m embarrassed that we’re so far behind, considering we’re so advanced in many other sectors, it’s quite clear where we need to make more effort. A recent report by Engineering UK suggests the country has a demand for about 124,000 engineers each year, but the actual number being appointed is 37,000, that’s 59,000 lower than required, so there’s certainly a long way to go.

However, it doesn’t all have to be seen as being ‘too difficult’. Thinking about how you word a job advert can significantly change the applications you receive. Recent research based on the analysis of hundreds of millions of job ads, has shown that the way job adverts are worded determines whether more men or women apply for the role. The study found that the word “manage” encourages more men than women to apply but changing the word to “develop” would make it more female-friendly. The researchers also found that gender preferences can be conveyed subtly through words such as “competitive,” or “leader”, usually associated with male stereotypes, while words such as “support” and “interpersonal” are associated with female stereotypes. After employing these techniques, one company saw an 80% increase in the hiring of women in technical roles globally over a two-year period, so it’s definitely something to try.

What is really encouraging is that a number of women in the industry were mentioned in the Queen’s birthday honours earlier this month. Kath Moore was recognised for services to the construction industry, Roma Agrawal for services to engineering, Professor Denise Bower for services to engineering and Dr Frances Saunders was awarded a damehood for services to science and engineering. So, while we may have a long way to go, there are women out there doing amazing work. They are perfect examples of what can be achieved and are an inspiration to all; the acknowledgement from the Queen is thoroughly well deserved.

 For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.