Just six per cent of the engineering workforce are women, according to the IET’s latest annual skills survey.
Despite numerous attempts by industry bodies and major companies to address the gender gap over the years, the proportion of women in the profession remains one of the lowest in Europe.
In the last five years, when these efforts have come into particular focus as the industry moves to deal with a perceived skills shortage, the figure reported by the IET’s survey for professional engineers, technicians and apprentices has barely changed.
Things are even worse when looking just at engineering technicians, only per three cent of whom are women.
Some companies have managed to increase their intake of women to as much as 50 per cent, so perhaps as more businesses follow their lead and retiring engineers are replaced the numbers will start to look better.
But in those firms who can attract women, it hasn’t necessarily made an impact. As Keith Cochrane, CEO of Scottish engineering firm Weir Group, told the BBC last week, around 25 per cent of the company’s engineering recruits are women but for the whole organisation the figure is the same as the national total of six per cent.
This also raises the question of whether firms that can persuade women to join up are doing enough to keep them. Just 18 per cent of firms surveyed had a positive attitude towards flexible working, 16 per cent offered mentoring, nine per cent offered structured career paths with breaks and only eight per cent had an equal opportunities policy.
Worse, 23 per cent of companies said they were doing nothing to improve the diversity of their workforce. A further 20 per cent said they just hired the best candidate.
The IET’s Stephanie Fernandes, who authored the skills report, said that if companies wanted to address any skills shortage it wasn’t enough to hire the best person who happened to apply. ’You’ve got to seek them out because they might not come knocking on your door,’ she told The Engineer.
’Employers have a responsibility to get the best out of their employees. If they’re female there are probably a different set of actions to get the best from them …You have to adapt to get best out of different cohorts of employees.’
Update: The above graph now includes data for the period 2007-2009 as well as 2010-2014.