Incorporating gender diversity in the hiring process
Women now outnumber men at undergraduate level in medicine and the biological sciences. But in the physical sciences, the pattern is different: According to UCAS, 23% of students starting physics degrees in 2016 were women, while for engineering, the figure was only 17%. Women also leave science and engineering careers in greater numbers than men: only 1 in 8 of those in engineering occupations, and less than 1 in 10 of those in an engineering role within an engineering company, are women.
- Only 9% of the engineering workforce is female and only 6% of registered engineers and technicians (i.e. CEng, IEng, EngTech) are women
- The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, at less than 10%, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30%
- 15.8% of engineering and technology undergraduates in the UK are female. Compared with India: where over 30% of engineering students are women on engineering courses account for over 30% of the students
- The proportion of young women studying engineering and physics has remained virtually unchanged since 2012
Diversity is paramount for innovation, where 85% corporate diversity and talent leaders agreed that “A diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation” found in a global survey by WES.
We asked Mandy Bennett CertRP, principal contract consultant at Redline Group, her views on whether the UK is falling short in terms of encouraging women to pursue a career in engineering:
“With only 6% of registered engineers and technicians in the UK being female in 2015, there is still a long way to go to obtain a gender diverse industry. The UK is currently ranked lowest in percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe. Companies are 15% more likely to perform better if they are gender diverse, which in itself is a clear indication that there is work to be done in the engineering industry.
“As a specialist recruitment partner within the technology sector, it is important that we play a part in educating, informing and supporting our clients in promoting gender diversity and ways in which clients can implement this into their hiring process.”
“The first area we can influence is through promoting engineering within education. 15.8% of engineering and technology graduates in the UK are female. Compared with India where over 30% are female. Also, when it comes to apprenticeships, only 3.8% of engineering apprenticeship starts are female. These stats show that even if engineering companies wanted to hire more females, there is a limited number of engineers coming through the education system.
“Perhaps working closely with sixth form and colleges to promote engineering when choosing degree courses, or working closely with secondary schools introducing ‘career days’ or ‘day in the life of an engineer’ to promote jobs within the engineering industry early on. I remember going through GSCE choices with my female peers, and D&T, Physics or similar were not even a consideration or the norm as a choice to us. This was 10 years ago, so things may have moved on since then, but the stats do not represent this.
“Today, businesses are faced with an ever-changing, and increasingly complex landscape which requires fresh thinking and innovative new approaches. Businesses who make diversity a priority will be one step ahead as they draw on a diverse range of talents, cultures and ideas.
“We also need to show the younger female generation about the amazing industry and the type of career paths that they could potentially pursue.”
In a survey of 300 female engineers, 84% were either happy to extremely happy with their career choice. Some engineering firms are working hard to recruit more women. BP, for example, runs women-only recruitment days to attract female engineers, and also offers flexible working to retain its female staff. BAE Systems are involved in numerous STEM projects, such as engineering taster days and ‘Girls in Engineering’ events. At Schneider Electric, they have set a target that 40 percent of all new recruits will be women in 2017, and are pushing their partners in the recruitment and search firms to ensure they have a good selection of candidates.
Global engineering companies, GKN and AECOM have joined in for a call for action at the IET #9percentisnotenough conference. GKN has set a goal for 2020 that 20% of GKN’s leadership should be women, and in time, 20% should be from under-represented ethnic groups. Priding itself on being unique, GKN understands that it certainly needs their employees to be different too. As the largest global engineering design firm, AECOM has a significant platform to lead the way in terms of engineering and diversity. AECOM are striving to create diverse teams which can flourish due to a highly inclusive business culture, and have made advances as a company in supporting its people to take action by supporting STEM programmes, leading the industry through innovation and celebrating personal achievements.
Diversity is a broad topic, but a good place to start is gender. In the UK, women are under-represented in many different areas, particularly in the technology and engineering industries which have historically been considered ‘a man’s world’. The greatest progress will be made when men and women work together to promote women’s empowerment and drive gender equality at all levels of the business. First, ensure that women are equally considered in the recruiting process, by setting targets and holding recruiters accountable to those too.
“Promoting an inclusive policy and achieving gender balance is not just the right thing to do, it’s good for business. There is clear evidence that companies with women in their workforce from engineering jobs, to engineering management through to the executive committee, are more successful. A diversity and inclusion strategy is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s a critical objective for UK engineering and technology businesses, impacting both their ability to attract and retain talent, and improve their bottom line. As an experienced specialist recruiter, to me today’s ‘ideal candidate’, is one who has personal and communication skills as well as technical ones. Having a combination of great people skills, great creativity and great technical knowledge will be a passport to a really good job – somebody with that combination of skills is going to be the most sought-after kind of person.”
For more information regarding this article, please contact Mandy Bennett, Redline Group’s Principal Contract R&D/Engineering Consultant on 01582 878854 or email MBennett@RedlineGroup.com