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Why has engineering suffered from a lack of women?

The number of female engineers in the workplace has historically been alarmingly low. Only around 1 in 10 engineers were female, according to IET skills surveys from a decade ago, which is actually the lowest proportion for the industry in any country in Europe. And even early participation figures for women in the engineering field were low, as both engineering degrees and apprenticeships showed a massively disproportionate imbalance in favour of men.

So why the shortcomings?

For a while, the UK engineering industry has been failing to inspire young women to invest their time into forging a career as an engineer. Secondary school education showed a startling lack of information for students about how diverse and far-reaching the opportunities are in an engineering career. The confusion around what an engineer actually is meant that a large number of female students were not aware of what options are available in engineering.

Then, of course, there has been a historically ingrained gender bias. Societal traditions in the UK once portrayed the engineering profession as a male-dominated field, and this was a damaging perception for aspiring female engineers to contend with. Any curiosity that arose in teenage girls was likely to end in disenchantment as the belief grew that they would be unable to compete with boys even in hopes of being treated as intellectual equals. And earnings figures down the line didn’t make nice reading for women.

Research from MIT also seems to suggest male dominance was may have prevented many talented female engineers from succeeding in the sector. Team situations in group assignments tended to see the old gender archetypes come to the surface too often, leaving many women feeling sidelined or assigned the lesser jobs of a project.

The future of engineering

Thankfully, the playing field is becoming more even day by day, and the future of women in engineering looks brighter now than at any other point in history. With more government funding for STEM subjects being directed into education, it also means we can expect to see more women with the skills to fill the broad scope of engineering roles in future.

What’s more, employers are now beginning to offer sector allowances to encourage women into the field of engineering, and the profile of women in engineering is being raised all the time thanks to the work of inspiring female engineers.

The opportunities are increasing, and there has never been a better time for women to get into the field. So head over to TTE and see how engineering training could set you on the path to the success you’ve always dreamed of.

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