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What we know about women in engineering in 2018

Engineering is a fantastic and highly rewarding career for all, whatever their gender, race or background. Despite this, the numbers of women entering the profession remain low. Women are underrepresented for a number of reasons, including stereotyping, educational background and choices, and the working environment.

We’ve gathered some information about trends for women and girls to give some insight into representation in the industry. Our hope is that these figures show that there is still some way to go, but that progress is coming. There is a movement towards change and an effort by those involved in education and career development to highlight the many advantages that such a career can offer for women today. Girls and women looking to enter the profession have the opportunity to be a part of this change, to challenge the status quo.

Schools and further education

More boys (9%) than girls are encouraged to consider engineering as a career, especially by their parents. There has, however, been an increase in the total number of children who would consider a career in engineering. For example, between 2011 and 2014 this moved from 29% to 47%. Although there are still differences between the sexes, increased interest means more girls are getting involved, even if in lower numbers to their male counterparts.

They have the potential, clearly. Girls often get higher grades in STEM GCSE subjects than boys. In fact, just last year 26.9% of girls achieved A*-A/9-7, compared to a far lower number of boys, just 12.1%. This shows that they have the skills and intellect required to develop in the field. Whilst these high grades don’t follow through to all A-Level subjects, more girls than boys achieved A*-B in their Physics A-Level last year.

When it comes to engineering apprenticeships, men are being encouraged in higher numbers than female students. 53% of apprenticeships were taken by women in 2014/15 but they represented only 3.8% of engineering apprenticeships. There has been progress in some fields, though. Women represented 41% of IT user apprenticeships in 2013/14, as well as around 30% of food manufacture, supply chain management and aviation ops training.

Employment and careers

In 2017, surveys showed that 11% of employees in the engineering industry were women. This is an increase as compared to previous years, although progress remains slow. There is a huge demand for engineers in the UK. 61% of employers requiring engineers consider recruitment an issue in the development of their business. When it comes to staying in employment and developing their careers, women are finding certain barriers holding them back, including the inability to work flexibly.

60% of women in STEM jobs reported feeling that there were barriers to their return to work after taking a break. But this may not be so different from other industries. There are always challenges. 84% of women surveyed in 2013 reported being happy or extremely happy and two thirds of these felt that being a woman gave them an advantage in their chosen career.

Female leaders in engineering

Those looking to enter the profession via an apprenticeship or other engineer training programme will look to existing engineers for inspiration and guidance. There are strong signs from businesses that the tide is changing for women. Between 2011 and 2015 the percentage of women on boards, across business more generally, moved from 12.5% to 26.1%. In STEM in 2012 the figure was 13%, slightly lower than other sectors at that time. But this means there are opportunities for ambitious women willing to be part of the change. An apprenticeship could be the perfect first step in an exciting career.

Photo: wocintech (microsoft) - 187 by wocintechchat.com licensed under Creative commons 4
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