Engineering is an exciting industry that involves innovation, problem solving, technology, and can be a challenging but very rewarding career path. Yet there is a significant lack of diversity in the engineering world, which is why days like International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is so important.
INWED is a day to celebrate the amazing women in the field, to put a spotlight on the fascinating and exciting industry to encourage to aspiring female engineers, and to highlight ways in which the industry can overcome the lack of diversity which will in turn benefit the economy, as studies have indicated that companies are 15% more likely to perform better with a diverse workforce.
In such a male dominated industry, entry level positions can be a struggle for aspiring female engineers when there is such a stigma around it being a ‘male’ profession. This is perpetuated in the media, through stereotypes passed down through generations, and the ways in which STEM subjects are taught and encouraged in schools. There are now over one million females working in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) industry in the UK, but this only results in women being 16.5% of all engineers in the UK.
Research has also found a staggering 92% of the engineering workforce is male and 94% are white. The same study found that females face many barriers when returning to work in engineering, for example, 36% of females that return to work in the industry have felt that there has been a bias in the recruitment process.
So, what can be done? Here are our top five tips for progressing in the engineering industry.
- Find a mentor
- Having someone to give you pointers and advice who has ‘been-there done-that’ is invaluable. Ideally look for someone in the industry that has a decent amount of experience so you can ask their advice and learn from.
- It doesn’t have to be a working professional, perhaps a friend or relative will be able to guide you through any situations that you find difficult to navigate.
- Don’t be scared to ask someone to be your mentor. If you are asking someone senior in work to be a mentor for you, this will help them navigate the advice they give to you and support you when you might not realise you need it.
- If you don’t want to formalise having a mentor, there are still plenty of women you can take inspiration from. INWED’s theme this year is ‘Inventors and Innovators’, so take a look at their social campaigns to celebrate female engineers with their social handle @inwed1919.
- Break down those barriers
- There is lots of evidence discussing why there is a gender gap in employment and what can be done, but it is not your job to change the system, stereotypes, or other people’s biases. But what you can do is confront and question anything that comes up against giving you a fair chance of succeeding. There are support networks available that you can reach out to so that you can connect with likeminded people.
- Practice your skills
- Communication skills will be essential when progressing in a career in engineering as you will need to have the ability to effectively convey your technical knowledge, work well in a team, and listen well to understand any problem or issues that arise.
- There has been a shift to industry 4.0 which affects engineering. New innovations and technologies are at the forefront of new ways of working, such as smart factories being data led, whereas previously there might be a forecaster who would monitor stock levels and look at the output. Everything is data driven now, so businesses can make smarter decisions and focus on continuous improvement. Therefore, you may need to review your technical knowledge and ensure it’s up to date. You will need the right background to pursue technical roles and you may need to consider getting certified in any new areas to keep up with the nature of the engineering industry.
- Confidence is key
- Don’t forget, women are not ‘female engineers’, they ARE engineers. You just need to be yourself and do the job. And you CAN do the job – you don’t need us to tell you that. So, have confidence in your knowledge and skill set, it is enough.
- Seek out opportunities
- If you know exactly what you are looking for, then make sure you take your time to look at all your options rather than rushing into the first job that comes up. The job market is hot right now and candidates can easily pick and choose the best place. However, if you’re unsure about your next steps in engineering, ask your mentor or alternatively there are plenty of recruitment consultants who specialise in the engineering sector that can advise on skills and experience required for certain roles, opportunities you may not have considered, and advice on what to do next.
From an employers’ point of view, more focus is needed on promoting a work-family balance, achieve equal pay, eliminate discrimination, and ultimately address barriers to close the gender gap in the engineering industry, for the good of the economy and for women to work in their preferred sector without socio-economic barriers holding them back. Of course we can’t cover the breadth and depth of diversity in the workplace in one article, and we encourage you to do your own research into gender inequality in STEM and ways in which we can all contribute to a more diverse workforce.
At NC Associates, we want to ensure that there aren’t any barriers in our recruitment process and want to enable candidates to access opportunities that they may feel they’ve been previously denied. We conduct all our hiring processes in a standardised and an inclusive way to encourage applications from underrepresented individuals in fields such as women in engineering.
We have recently represented multiple women looking to proceed in engineering roles such as an Asset Reliability Manager and Multi-skilled Maintenance Engineers. To find out more about roles in engineering such as Electrical Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, or Team Leaders, click here or contact our engineering recruitment specialist, Ryan Smith.