How can we get more Women in Engineering?

Original post date: July 11, 2024
Hannah Kirk

Following on from our work surrounding the challenges women in engineering face and the opportunities for them. We want to dive deeper into what can be done to get more women in the sector. Once again Laura Shrieves and Laura Kershaw share their insights. 

Education Around Engineering As a Career 

Based on the majority of recent Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the main explanations for the gender imbalance in STEM are: 

Women are discouraged from considering STEM careers in school

(45%)

Women become put off by how male-dominated the industry is

(32%) 

Many across the industry are echoing this by addressing the early stereotyping within the industry and talking about the sector’s potential earlier. This means that we need to be: 

Getting Primary schools involved in promoting the sector. 

Including more GCSE or NVQ qualifications at High-school level. 

Opening up opportunities at A-Level for great representation. 

Reassuringly, there’s a large push to get more women into high-level STEM education. With 50.1% more women accepted onto full-time STEM undergrad courses (between 2011 and 2020). The Women in Engineering report also showed that there has been a 3.5% increase in women entering the industry aged 16-34. So, exposing young people to women in engineering early is paying off. 

But there’s still more work to be done. A report released by Engineering UK in early 2023 has found some shocking stats: 

115,000

more girls would need to study A Levels in Maths or Physics to reach the same number of male undergraduates.  

23% 

of male students studying these subjects at A Level, went on to study Engineering in Higher Education.

only 8% 

of female students studying them went on to do the same.  

The key message is that by starting sooner, we have more opportunities to break down the stereotypes within the sector to potentially increase the uptake of women in engineering

Think about it, if a young girl spots a female engineer working on an F1 car whilst watching the Grand Prix coverage, that’s reaffirming to them that they could do that job.   

Speaking of F1, McLaren created a fantastic campaign for INWED with some of their female engineers. Where they each wrote a letter to their younger self.

McLaren – Celebrating International Women In Engineering Day 2024 (YouTube Video)

Mentoring and Developing the Talent You’ve Got 

Training and development are a must in retaining any engineers you have. But it’s particularly important for women in the industry who well the pressures of representing the underrepresented. This is what the engineers we spoke to said the importance of mentors: 

“I’ve had loads of people who have believed in me and pushed me to stretch myself, without the advice, support and guidance of these people, I wouldn’t be here I am or who I am today. None of these people were ever formal mentors but people I found at the right time to give me the right advice and I’m very lucky to call these people friends to this day.”

– Laura Shrieves 

“Mentors have been game-changers for me. They provide second opinions on opportunities I pursue and help me navigate internal battles. Their guidance has allowed me to gain exposure and make a more significant impact more quickly within this space. I believe all companies should enable their employees to advance their careers if they wish, supporting them with STEM activities, speaking opportunities, and attendance at events.” 

– Laura Kershaw

It’s clear that both have had positive experiences with mentors. Experiences that have supported and helped them navigate the engineering industry as women. Which is even more reason to ensure your team (both new and existing) have mentors within your business.  

Something else you can proactively do is make sure you have routes for all employees to progress through the ranks. And if you don’t have women in high levels of management currently, ensure they can comfortably move into them and feel supported when doing so. 

It’s the low percentages that are intimidating to those underrepresented groups wanting to get into the industry. It isn’t just deterring young women interested in an engineering career, it’s affecting female engineers’ confidence to progress. 

Getting the Whole Business Involved. 

Challenging the culture women face in the industry isn’t something one person can do. The whole community needs to work together to become more supportive and inclusive for women. This is what our engineers said the community and colleagues can do: 

Sponsorship and allyship isn’t talked about enough, who is advocating for you when you are not in the room, create networks for support and development. Be brave speak up for women who haven’t found their voice yet! 

“Also tapping into STEM returners and cross-skilling from other industries, there is so much talent out there!”

– Laura Shrieves 

Speak up if someone crosses the line. Don’t leave it solely to us to stand up for ourselves when facing sexist remarks. Actively promote and have a passion for diversity and inclusion, support those who may be different from yourself, and stand up to actively combat barriers to inclusion. 

We must continue to amplify the voices of women in the industry and remember the statistics of underrepresentation. With this we can explore the options of how we (as recruiters, employers, and education providers) can do better to decrease this gap

In Summary 

As we have seen, many industries have made leaps to improve women’s representation. Nevertheless, there are more opportunities to improve. For example, the outreach and engagement practices businesses create. 

One of the key things that we would recommend to employers is to get out there. Partner with a range of education providers, from primary through to universities, and get involved in their career events. Really push to be present in the upcoming generation’s education. SheCanEngineer is a great one to look at! 

Tackling this challenge requires a long-term strategy of involvement. By starting sooner, you’ll have a greater impact on getting women into engineering and keeping those who are already in it.  

If you would like support in creating a strategy to get involved. Or, would like us to represent some of your roles at the careers fairs we attend, reach out to the team today

It isn’t just about promoting engineering, it’s about getting the environment right. After speaking to the women who currently work in the field, the importance of getting the culture right is clear and it’s something that the entire community need to work together to achieve. 

Before you go…

One final note from the two amazing engineers we spoke with. We asked them what’s 1 thing you’d want to say to your younger self if she knew you’d be where you are now?  

“Speak up more, it took me a long time to get the confidence to speak up, whether that be in a meeting or calling out something that wasn’t right. Imposter syndrome held me back  for a while and whilst I still get that now, its more a moment where I am uncomfortable, but I’ll do it anyway!”

– Laura Shrieves 

“Don’t wait for somebody else to change perceptions.”

– Laura Kershaw

About the Engineers Who Shared Helped Make This 

Laura Shrieves

A systems engineer with over 18 years’ experience in the industry. Currently, Laura is a Member of the Board of Trustees for the Women’s Engineering Society and is the VP of Engineering for Ultra Maritime. She has a passion for the creation and development of strong engineering leadership teams with a focus on diversity. 

Laura-Kershaw-Profile-Picture

Laura Kershaw 

Laura has been an advocate for women in engineering for years, with being a STEM Ambassadors, Co-Chair of Young Members, The Chair of the WES Apprentice Board. She’s currently an apprentice powertrain systems development technician and gained her love of engineering through the films industry.