women in engineering

In May this year the UK energy sector was warned that the lack of gender diversity in its ranks could have an adverse effect on its transition to net zero.

The alarm bells were rung in a State of the Nation study by PwC and POWERful Women which shows that year-on-year figures on female representation at senior level are low. Women hold just 24% of all board seats and only 14% of executive director positions at the top 80 “most significant” energy employers.

However this can hardly come as any surprise. There are so many UK business and industry sectors where a lack of diversity – gender and racial – is common.

Reports on gender balance are legion every year. For example, in 2019, the influential Energy Leaders’ Coalition was calling for further efforts to increase the number of women in senior roles to meet future industry challenges. This was in response to that year’s PwC/POWERful Women report which revealed slow progress on employing women at the top ranks and recognising female talent.

Some progress has been made, and in recent years across all sectors of business, politics and society more female talent, as well as BAME talent, has been promoted, but obviously there’s still some way to go. It is becoming the industry’s fierce urgency of now and the accelerator needs to be pressed.

To achieve UK government’s net-zero goals, it’s estimated that as many as 400,000 people are required to be recruited over the next 30 years and therefore a significant number need to be female workers.

What Can Be Done?

STEM subjects pervade every aspect of our daily lives and have helped to shape the world we live in and consequently are a highly valuable part of our economy, now helping to shape Industry 4.0.

The World Economic Forum estimates 133 million new jobs will need to be created to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in just the next two years.

For any industry, encouraging diversity starts in schools, colleges and universities, which is also where positive perceptions of STEM careers are embedded. there is a good sized pool of potential new recruits.

According to a recent Engineering UK study 12.4% of all engineers in the UK are women, but it also revealed that 46 of girls 11-14 and 42% of girls aged 14 to 16 would consider a career in engineering. Encouraging them into a STEM subject occupation is a win-win because improving diversity is also the key to unlocking the skills gap conundrum.

Any shift must happen though at both the top of business and at the bottom. Board rooms and senior leadership teams need to be more representative right now to help inspire future generations of talent. To ensure they remain so they need immediately to be building in diversity from the ground up. If young girls don’t see women in engineering, then they will never aspire to enter this profession.

There are a number of different strategies employers can put in place to ensure they are offering equal opportunities for exciting young talent, regardless of who they are or where they have come from.

This can include sourcing talent from diverse educational institutions, rethinking essential requirements in job descriptions to avoid deterring applicants and actively working to widen talent pools and publicising roles to a wider variety of people and encouraging them to apply. Additionally, as we know at TTE, one of the best ways of introducing new skills into your business is via apprenticeships. They can offer the perfect answer if your business wants to bring a young person in to train up from scratch, or if you want to offer new training to an existing member of your team.

Diversity best for business

Crucial for any organisation looking to stay ahead of the competition is being able to innovate.

Diverse teams have a wide range of experiences, helping to generate new ideas. As a result, a more inclusive workforce provides the different perspectives a company needs to shape its innovation strategy.

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, nonhomogeneous teams perform better than their less diverse counterparts, particularly when it comes to critical thinking. This is thought to be because working with people who are different may challenge our brains to overcome stale ways of thinking and sharpen performance.

Greater diversity also leads to a more positive company culture, employees feel included and are happy to share their views. It’s also key to when it comes to attracting the best young talent, especially when it’s a key consideration for that talent in choosing where best to utilise their skills.

The business case for diversity, therefore, is compelling. McKinsey’s 2018 study Delivering Through Diversity showed that companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile, confirming diversity’s correlation to financial performance.

Only by actively working to build a diverse junior talent pipeline will businesses naturally have diverse representation at board and senior level in years to come.

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