Industry says it is determined to attract more female engineers. The Engineer wants to hear your thoughts on whether its efforts are working, says Jon Excell
A glance through The Engineer’s 1970s archive - replete with ads featuring scantily clad models clutching spanners or draped over pieces of industrial equipment - is a striking illustration of how industry’s attitudes to gender equality have changed in the past few decades.
Although to be fair to our recent forbears, attitudes 30 or 40 years ago probably represented a vast improvement on the Victorian mentality.
Commenting on the issue in January 1920 The Engineer declared that ‘nature has not fitted women for engineering. ‘Though here and there,’ it grudgingly admitted, ‘one may break away from the norm, just as we may find now and then a great woman novelist or a tolerable women artist.’ (Read The Woman Engineer from The Engineer, 9 January 1920, p43)
Thankfully things have changed both in industry, and - I’m pleased to say - on The Engineer. Gender diversity is a hot topic for all of the big engineering firms, institutions and associations, and there are tentative signs that the number of female engineers is creeping up. What’s more, if the findings of a survey published earlier this week are truly representative, 98 per cent of those women who do pursue a career in engineering find their jobs rewarding (Read Atkins’ report “Britain’s got talented female engineers”).
But gender diversity remains a pressing issue. Though attitudes are changing, the UK still has the lowest proportion of female engineers in the EU. And, as we’ve argued many times before, tapping into the talent of just half of the UK’s population is no way to address a skills crisis. If the UK’s engineering economy is to grow, it’s vital that more girls and women are inspired to embark on a career in engineering.
Back in 2011, we published a special supplement dedicated to the issue of women in engineering. We looked at some of the reasons behind industry’s gender gap, asked why efforts to address this imbalance had stalled, and argued that industry needed to do much more than simply pay lip-service to a glossy corporate notion of diversity.
This November we’ll be revisiting the issue. Rather than reiterating the same tired old calls for “something” to be done, we’re going to focus on practical examples of how engineering firms have addressed the gender diversity issue.
This is where you come in. We want to hear from engineers of both genders about what, if anything, your employers are doing to attract and retain female engineers. And if you’re a woman, do you feel that your career progression is hindered by your gender? Do you regularly encounter sexism? Or is your workplace a haven of equality?
We’re really keen to hear your accounts - the more candid the better - and will obviously, if you wish, guarantee your anonymity. If you’re interested in adding your thoughts to this important debate, please post your comments below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org