It’s time to tackle career stereotypes and get more women to enter ‘male professions’.
The lack of women in typically male professions like engineering is being highlighted ahead of this weekend’s International Women’s Day (Sunday 8 March). Currently, just six per cent of engineers are female, one of the lowest percentages in Europe. And women are also under represented in occupations such as science, graphic design and broadcasting*.
The next president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Naomi Climer, believes that International Women’s Day is a good time to draw attention to the problem.
Naomi says: “When I started in engineering I was very against events or quotas to highlight the lack of women in business. However, 20 or 30 years on, the number of female engineers remains worryingly low, despite the best efforts of all kinds of different organisations.
“Increasing the number of women in engineering and science isn’t simply a feminist issue – there is a compelling business case for it too. There simply aren’t enough engineers to meet expected demand over the next decade. So the time has come to create a step change. Otherwise we risk many more years of seeing women excluded from creative, rewarding, interesting and challenging careers in certain sectors.
“Diversity can be a very emotive issue and it is proving hard to shift subconscious social attitudes, stereotypes, and ingrained habits in schools and companies. Diversity needs to be on everyone’s agenda, not just women’s, and will only be achieved when we all have a better understanding of the unconscious bias that we have as individuals, employers and collectively as a nation.
“Put simply, good practice that creates a level playing field for women is also generally good for everyone. We will all benefit from measures such as flexible working, better pay and a more inclusive culture.
“But if we have roughly 50 per cent of the population who do equally well in school and university at technical subjects, who appear to join engineering in much larger numbers in some other countries, but we’re only getting about 6 per cent into the engineering workforce in the UK – something is undeniably going wrong.”
*Not just for boys campaign, Department of Work & Pensions
Elsewhere, Google’s Women in Search initiative (which will begin next week) will highlight those women who are making a difference within the field, and highlight to other women that this is a field they should be aware of as a potential career path. Visit this page for more information.