This time last year the UK marked the second annual National Women in Engineering Day (NWED). This event was established by the Women’s Engineering Society as a way of championing female engineers and encouraging more women into the profession. With the UK reportedly needing to double the number of recruits into engineering if it is to meet demand, it makes sense to target the half of the population that’s drastically underrepresented in the industry.
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Statistics show that just 7% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female. That’s the lowest figure in Europe, way behind the likes of Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus, which lead with nearly 30%. It’s also significantly behind the US, which sits at about 14%. And it doesn’t look like it’s improving at any great pace – at the moment, just 3.4% of engineering and manufacturing apprentices are female. There is no great tsunami of female engineers waiting to sweep across the nation and balance out the workforce.
The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and the UK government, which set up the #notjustforboys campaign to encourage more girls into careers in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), both point out that girls perform equally well if not better in these subjects, but are simply not pursuing them through further education at the same rate that boys do. A few examples: less than 20% of Physics A Level (a British qualification taken aged 16 – 18) students are female. WES reports that this figure hasn’t changed for 25 years, which seems incredible when you consider how much ground has been broken in other areas in that time. Moving on to undergraduate qualifications, there are around 20 000 more men than women studying engineering at university. Gender stereotypes are being blamed for this imbalance, and these start young. This is compounded by a lack of women engineer role models, which is one of the issues that NWED aims to tackle, chartering social media to spread the message through inspirational case studies, messages and, of course, selfies.
Though clearly the UK is lagging behind on this issue, we are by no means alone and as a forward-thinking publication in a forward-thinking industry, we’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest that you share your own endeavours on our social media pages (and selfies, if you like). How do you encourage new recruits to your company, and what percentage of your workforce is female? Is it important to you to have a balanced workforce? We look forward to hearing from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this issue and wish to express my thanks to all those people who sent in their news to be included. As this is the time of year that we start thinking about next year’s editorial schedule, we would appreciate your feedback on this and all our features to make sure World Cement remains relevant to you.