Since it was set up 15 years ago, campaign group Women into Science and Engineering (Wise) has had marked success in its aims of getting more school-age girls interested in pursuing a career in engineering.
The number of women engineering undergraduates has increased to 15% and in the past four years, the number of women engineers has risen by 2% to one-fifth of the total employees in the profession.
These successes are behind a change in ownership of Wise, which was announced last month. From early next year, the Engineering Employers’ Federation and the Engineering and Marine Training Authority will join former sole owner the Engineering Council to run the campaign.
More work is needed to make sure women stay in the sector, says Ann Bailey, head of training at the Engineering Employers’ Federation.
`We have to make sure the environment in engineering firms women are joining is welcoming, to ensure they stay,’ she says.
Marie Noelle Barton, who remains as manager of Wise, agrees that the organisation needs to encourage employers to enact family-friendly policies and flexible ways of working.
`Compared to 15 years ago things are much better, but since the recession, employers have been reluctant to do anything more,’ says Barton.
`We will now have better access to lists of employers so we will be able to target them better. Having a link to organisations which deal with training will also help.’
The new structure will also bring with it significant new investment. But according to EMTA chief executive Mike Sanderson, Wise needs to win more funds from large employers such as GEC, British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce in order to step up its campaign.
`The real problem has always been to encourage employers to sponsor and support things,’ he says. `By involving EMTA, Wise will be much closer to the employer network.’
The level of investment from the EEF and EMTA has not yet been decided, but Sanderson says he hopes to double the number of `technology buses’, which visit schools, from five to 10. Each bus costs £100,000, so this alone will be a massive investment.
Another aim of the new Wise is to carry out more research into areas such as use of career breaks, flexible working practices and retention of women in the industry.
`I would like to see research on how many women we bring in to engineering; whether they stay; if they don’t, where do they get to; and whether they hit a glass ceiling,’ says Bailey.