In 2016, there were 25 men for every woman employed on an engineering apprenticeship, data from the Young Women’s Trust revealed.
This revelation reinforces previous discussion of the need to push more opportunities for women in engineering. In fact, the details showed the number of female apprentices was falling, despite government efforts to push up the numbers. Around 5% of engineering apprentices were female in 2002-03, that number is now 4%.
This means that employers need to take positive action to increase opportunities for women, industry experts say. This could be getting women working in non-traditional roles to go into schools and share their stories, or working with employers to clear up uncertainties about advertising ladies-only roles.
Promoting women in engineering
It’s also important to paint a better picture of what it means to work in engineering – and to start when girls are very young. Educational programmes and sector outreach are needed to capture the imagination and interest of girls and young women.
There are some misunderstandings to tackle first. Common assertions are that engineering is a dirty and physical job involving heavy tools, but the goal of an engineering professional is to improve people’s lives. This could be anything from designing sensitive monitors to large-scale production processes – engineering is a broad and diverse sector.
Other recommendations for improving women’s access includes increasing the number of part-time apprenticeships, publishing more data on the areas women are training in and better financial support and childcare provision.
Engineering is a progressive workplace
It’s also important to share this message of progressive employment with parents and care-givers. As a male-dominated industry it can be challenging to convince parents that their children will be supported in their new workplace, training experts say. There are some reports of teasing and sexist behaviour in engineering – as in any workplace – and bosses are working hard to stamp this out.
The report also points out that although women may still have barriers to accessing new sectors, men are experiencing new freedoms and opportunities – often in historically female areas such as health and social or childcare.