Engineering looking to get female friendly

It may not have registered on your radar, but June 23 was National Women in Engineering Day. Set up by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to celebrate its 95th anniversary, the aim of the day was to celebrate the work that women do in engineering, and to showcase the great engineering careers that are available for girls and women.

Women are woefully under represented in engineering, and, alongside the WES, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is urging companies to revisit their approach to both recruitment and retention of female engineers. It’s a surprising and somewhat sad fact that just 7% of UK engineers are female. Improving on that figure has already been the target of focus from the UK government: in 2013, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced a new scheme to introduce 100,000 new engineering apprenticeships by 2018. However, last year just 400 women took on an engineering apprenticeship, compared to 12,880 men.

Helen Wollaston, Director of WISE, an organisation which promotes female talent in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, told The Independent: “I think the main problem is that girls often have a limited view of engineering. The fact that it’s both a trade and a profession, with opportunities at many levels and across many industries, is a real challenge to get across. Also the current shortage of women in engineering means there aren’t enough female role models for them to aspire to.”

Nevertheless, the WES website does carry an extensive list of women engineers they consider to be sources of inspiration for potential recruits to the industry – including a Chemical Engineer at BP, a Food Engineer at Nestle, a Nuclear Engineer at EDF Energy and a Automotive Engineer at Jaguar Land Rover.

Engineering is challenging but provides lots of variety, and it’s a profession that is in demand. New engineering graduates can expect to earn around £22,000 a year as a starting salary. An engineering-based education allows students to develop skills that are transferable to many industries and to branch into different sectors – finance, human resources, IT, investment banking, business development and more.

In recognition of those women who are making progress in engineering, the IET has announced its Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards. Their search for a ‘dynamic young woman who represents the very best of the profession – the overall winner will be an able ambassador, representing women in engineering and acting as an inspirational role model’, concludes with a ceremony at Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge, on December 10.

Entries close on July 31. The 2013 winner was Abbie Hutty, a Spacecraft Structures Engineer with Stevenage-based firm Astrium.

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