Men make better engineers than women!

Most people will disagree with this statement – “surely gender doesn’t affect a person’s ability to be an engineer?” Yet recent findings show there is still a massive gender gap within the Engineering sector. Females currently make up just 9% of the total UK Engineering workforce  – the lowest in Europe and unchanged since 2012. However, the number of female engineering graduates has been seen to increase, perhaps indicating an unconscious bias towards male engineers. This problem not only affects engineering companies and their employees, but also those in education and government.

This brings us to our moral dilemma: How can we increase the percentage of women in the engineering workforce without discriminating candidates based on gender?

The Gender Agenda

In 2008, Siemens AG promised to promote more women into boardroom and leadership roles, however by 2013, both  female board members had left the company. These figures are not unique to Siemens AG, but relate to engineering companies globally. The German government has attempted to rectify gender imbalance in their listed companies, by implementing a legal requirement for women to represent at least 30% of supervisory boards by 2016. Only 39% of STEM companies in the FTSE 100 have more than two women on their board, which shows the UK could benefit from a similar model.
Furthermore, there has not been an increase in female intake within engineering companies over the past few years. Rolls-Royce stated that in 2015, females made up 22% of their graduate intake, however these statistics are not exclusive to engineering and include professions, such as HR, that are known to be female dominant. This percentage is viewed as a success, however upon further inspection of UK employee statistics, it can be seen that in previous years only 29.8% of female STEM graduates remained within their STEM occupations, compared to 50.3% of their male counterparts. There is no lack of potential female recruitment out there with the correct qualifications, so why do the company statistics not reflect the current female graduate rate?

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One course of action is to enforce a legal requirement for large companies (>250 employees) to achieve a set quota of female engineers, with an aim to achieve parity in the long term. This is supported by the Utilitarian framework, as it would improve diversity within the workplace. However, this could discriminate against male applicants as females might be favoured regardless of skill/knowledge, which is unethical according to Kant’s theory. This could be improved by adjusting the quota according to the current engineering population.

Another action is to set a legal requirement for all companies to publish their employee statistics. This action is supported by the Egotistic ethical approach as it is in the company’s best interest to increase their diversity to enhance their reputation. Additionally, by enabling women to meet their full potential at work, up to $28trillion could be added to the annual GDP by 2025. It is also supported by the Utilitarian framework as it does not force companies to employ women but instead ensures applicants are selected based on competence rather than gender, satisfying the majority.

Educate, not legislate

One reason often given for reduced numbers of women in engineering is maternity leave. In a recent survey, 60% of women said that there were barriers to returning to work after a career break. This can be a major issue in engineering companies due to the speed at which the industry moves and the technical nature of the work. To counteract this, companies could run refresher courses, such as Vodafone’s Return to Technology initiative, to bring professionals back up to speed. This strategy, supported by the Utilitarian framework, is likely to increase morale and the perception of worth among employees, saving the company money as they don’t need to train new staff from scratch. This is also supported by Kant’s framework as all companies should consider the welfare of their employees.

60% of women said that there were barriers to returning to work after a career break.

Another option is to take no action and leave the situation to progress by itself. This relies on women currently employed at engineering companies to naturally progress to top level positions. This will allow them to become role models for the industry, encouraging more women to enter technical fields. This will also increase the influence of women within the company, potentially encouraging higher female employment rates. This strategy is supported by the Common Good approach, as the general will of the people is to promote equality within the workplace and therefore this should allow the best suited people to be placed in the ideal roles.

Many will argue that the gender gap is not a result of employment barriers, but rather stems from the need to educate children about what engineering actually is – removing the stigmatism surrounding this profession. For the past 25 years, girls have made up approximately 20% of A Level physics students. With this being a core subject for many engineering degrees, it is not surprising that the number of women in the workforce has remained relatively unchanged. Under the Utilitarian framework, the ethical impact of tailoring education is uncertain. On the one hand, the consequence may be more girls choose to study STEM subjects and subsequently engineering. On the other, children may feel pressured into pursuing careers they aren’t interested in. In addition, as education is generally considered positive, this strategy is supported by Kant’s framework.

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However, the National STEM Learning Network has been trying to improve engagement within STEM subjects for over 10 years, with little impact on female representation in engineering. A more drastic strategy would be to make at least one STEM subject mandatory at A-Level, however, this could be ethically immoral when considered under the Freedom Principle. We therefore feel education is a good course of action to take but is insufficient on its own to tackle gender inequality in engineering.

There is no simple answer for such a complex issue, hence no one solution is sufficient. The implications of enforcing gender legislation and manipulating education to promote a particular subject are unethical. Therefore, we feel the best course of action is to encourage companies to improve their self-image, by publishing employee statistics, and to provide equal opportunities to all employees, irrespective of gender.

Group 38: Caroline Dry, Matthew Jeffery, Isabel Brown, Matthew Smith

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23 thoughts on “Men make better engineers than women!

  1. While I agree with the premise of mandatory statistic publication for large companies, this kind of focus on numbers has the potential to create an even more hostile working environment. It would clearly lead to a more diverse pool of employees but the danger, as you pointed out, would be unqualified people being taken on just to boost statistics. Another drawback would be the potential backlash from male employees as they feel underrepresented and overlooked (in other words getting a taste of their own medicine).
    One way of avoiding hiring based on gender would be to carry out blind recruitment steps, i.e. make it so the application process doesn’t reveal gender, and so candidates are selected purely on merit.
    The best way to ensure growth in female engineers is, I think, to continue supporting children through a good and equal education. If children are taught that girls are just as capable as boys then future generations will (fingers crossed) not need to have this conversation!

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  2. Very interesting and informative article. Would broadly support conclusions and agree that no one solution is sufficient. A multi facated approach of appointment on ability/merit irrespective of gender (itself diverse), providing equal opportunities for all employees, publication of employer information/statistics and ensuring there are no obvious barriers to returners to the profession in recruitment (such as giving greatest weighting in candidate selection to using a a certain in house computer package etc). Most importantly, the value of having excellent women ambassadors for the profession in , and supported by, Universities (such as Isabel at Sheffield Uni) and the Workplace cannot be underestimated.

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  3. I couldn’t agree with this article any more there is no one quick fix for the gender division in engineering. I do agree that education is key, when I was applying for university I don’t think I fully knew what most course entailed, in particualr all forms of engineering. If young girls knew what university courses are available there could be an increase in female applicants. I feel if some sort of system was put in place so that gender was hidden from potential employers this would remove the problem of gender bias which is certainly present in engineering. It would very difficult to implement laws requiring certain % of female employees without creating gender bias

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  4. Refresher training should be offered after maternity leave / long term sick or career breaks .This would encourage people to regain their confidence and competence to return to work .
    Companies are missing out on very qualified women taking these key engineering roles , due to possibly out of date family friendly policys .
    The above is an opinion not fact .

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    1. I’d agree that sick leave, parental leave or other career breaks should be supported, but let’s not forget the large number of men affected by these policies too… The emphasis should be on making it fair for everyone

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  5. While quotas may be more divisive than encouraging inclusion, targets against which managers’ performance is judged can be helpful to incentivise more action to recruit and, importantly, retain high performing female staff. With targets to meet it seems more worthwhile to a manager to spend time working out how an advertisement may appeal or put off candidates, and whether selection processes favour the dominant (male) style of the organisation; plus ensuring junior women have mentors to support them at key decision points. I have had success in developing female colleagues eg by giving them opportunities to ‘act’ into more senior roles, giving them confidence to apply for the higher level roles when they are available. It is important though that women put aside barriers but rather see and seize opportunities.

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  6. Most of our efforts should be made in educating girls about their opportunities before they reach GCSE level. The engineering field is often difficult to get into for people who didn’t choose STEM subjects at school, so by 18 many have missed out.

    I have also found the current cohort of female engineers to be, on average, more skilled and hardworking than many of their male counterparts; possibly because they have more hoops to jump through and therefore have to try harder to break into engineering. Lots of guys choose engineering because it”s the thing to do. I don’t think that anyone would question that female engineers are just as capable as males given the same opportunities.

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  7. I would agree that educating children is important, I’m sure if you asked most 8-year-olds what an engineer does they wouldn’t know, or like me they might have an image in their mind of someone fixing an engine. Not all that aware of the science and maths that is actually involved. That could be the first step to getting girls to take science and maths at school, to enable them to have the choice later on. But so could changing the gender labelling of mechanical toys at a young age (which is also starting to happen, more girls are playing with things such as lego and meccano than used to, but these are still ‘boys toys’).

    From my understanding issues surrounding returning to work after a career break/maternity leave, like discussed here, are common among many fields of work which require being up to date with the latest technological research and developments. This is not only a problem in engineering, I believe this is common in sciences, where time out of the lab is required when pregnant as well as time off after the child is born. But also the pressures of a high pressure field such as this can make childcare and juggling responsibilities difficult. Whilst some companies are taking steps to improve this, maybe it should be happening faster?

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  8. There is a lot of pressure on women who decide to take on larger roles such as CEOs. If they mess up or under perform, then some will judge not only them but also the generalise this judgement across the whole gender as this is one of the few times they have seen a woman in a high performing role. It needs to be encouraged that woman and men are not better or worse but that individuals have different strengths and weaknesses. This will only be done when there is fair representation across the board.

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  9. As an engineering graduate female working outside of the engineering industry, I’d like to shed some light on the arguments in this article from my perspective.

    Firstly, as the first infographic supports, I believe there are a much higher number of students in STEM subjects compared to previous decades. The National STEM Learning Network’s efforts have been highly fruitful in this respect, and I agree that incorporating compulsory A-Levels is completely against the Freedom Principle.

    Now, considering such a high drop-off rate from STEM education to STEM or engineering employement, I don’t agree that the Common Good approach would be effective for the following reasons:

    – It is more difficult and statistically unlikely that women will rise to management positions when there are 10x more men in the workforce.
    – In the case that they did, assuming that women leaders will automatically become ‘role models’ for younger girls/women is short-sighted.

    Now for my personal experience:

    [ENTRY] I studied engineering as it opened more doors for my career than many other subjects. It made more sense to study STEM at degree level which equipped me with both technical expertise and social skills for practically any role (except specialty roles like doctors, dentists etc), than study a social science which may limit my opportunities in the future due to lack of technical experience.

    [EDUCATION] Overall, I found studying engineering was much more interesting than working within the industry. Studies compose of a great density and variety of information, with options to specialise in whichever area one pleases.

    [EMPLOYMENT] I left the Engineering Industry after experience with two separate companies as I found the day-to-day of employment mundane and repetitive. I am still within the Tech industry as my interests have not changed, but in a more people-based role where my day-to-day is challenging and I am more involved in my targets and performance.

    When moving onto employment, despite many options being present, swapping between specialisation is difficult and progression to people-based positions (managerial) is slow. I would argue that this is one of the primary reasons behind the high drop-off from education to employment within engineering.

    — FINAL THOUGHTS —

    In my opinion the responsibility lies primarily with engineering companies to provide fulfilling and interesting opportunities to men and women alike – not governmental or educational bodies. The latter have made great progress with this already, and even though companies sponsor women-based projects and activities, this is not enough to supply long-term career satisfaction and push girl/women to STICK with engineering.

    Thanks for a very insightful article – you’ve covered many great points around the topic in an unbiased manner.

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  10. I don’t believe quotas are the answer, both the employer and the employees feel somehow short changed by that. I am also sceptical of quotas because, as in your Rolls Royce example, data can prove anything if spun right, it is mind-sets that you need to change.
    Correcting the imbalance is a slow, I agreed too slow, process but the issue goes beyond the workplace, men still predominate not just engineering but secondary school teaching and, I believe, university and college lecturers in this field, where they are the role models for science study and careers and can influence students decisions. Furthermore, I expect that most women, but very very few men think, at least for a moment, about how their intended career path can fit with family life, which still expects women to be homemaker and career woman. Potentially more “flexible” careers such as medicine, teaching or private practice accountancy or law may appeal.
    I think that the increase in fathers taking paternity leave, breaking the gender stereotype that women take responsibility for accommodating life with children, has potential for a greater impact. Although we have moved on from women being asked at interview if they intend to have a career break to have children, it is still accepted that men will not.
    It is a fact that at Key stage 2 and 3 boys outperform girls in Maths and would therefore be more likely to be steered towards physics as a GCSE, once that decision is made the path is being set for future decisions unless a girl has a real determination to go into engineering.
    There is of course a non university route into the career via apprenticeships or in role progression. For children likely to take this route an Engineering GCSE option (available but not as widely offered by schools as D&T) can encourage girls to give it a go at this crucial decision making stage and of course getting role models into school to inspire to students at Year 8/9 (and their parents) when the GCSE decision is “real” to them is crucial.

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    1. Interesting that boys outperform girls at key stage 2 & 3. Why would that be?
      I agree quotas are not the answer. Companies need to look at how they can create competitive advantage by providing the environment to encourage female engineers to join them post motherhood. There must be a big pool of qualified female engineers, with work and life experience, that could be encouraged back into the work force.

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  11. Very interesting and eye-opening article. I completely agree that there is not one simple solution and that a variety of approaches will need to be taken to improve the current situation.

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  12. Gender does not determine a person’s ability to be an engineer. I believe it has been external issues which have historically deterred females from a career in Engineering.

    However, the current imbalance between male and female in U.K. Engineering is only part of a wider issue. Strategically the U.K. has too few engineers (male or female), if we are to be a major economic power. While we may struggle to return to being the workshop of the world, that provides total employment for the masses, we need to aim to create the next generation industries. Engineers/scientists that can discover and exploit world altering materials, like graphene, or baseload renewable technologies like tidal energy, need to be supported to turn these into UK based world beating industries.

    Solving the Gender Issue
    I agree that simple discrimination based upon sex is a poor solution as suggested in the article. We should discriminate based upon ability. On this measure I am sure the %age of females would increase over time as long as the career is seen as interesting and rewarding for them.

    I believe that a multipronged approach is required, there is no silver bullet.

    Government
    Government quotas on % of males/females would not help the profession, or UK plc’s strategic position. Cutting the number of engineers to 2 and having 1 being female would successfully get you to 50% female engineers but would be a woeful failure in reality. In my view Government should focus less on such social engineering measures and stick to Economic Strategy. Government can play its part by creating the environment;
    a. to encourage and promote STEM industries (including STEM education for all),
    b. to encourage a positive image of women in STEM; and
    c. supporting females returning to employment after childbirth.

    Companies
    The engineering companies can’t afford to alienate female talent. Companies should ensure the appraisal of candidates is as unbiased as possible for as long as possible, in order to recruit and promote the best regardless of their gender. Industries need to reward, respect and motivate all those that excel in the industry. They should proactively highlight successful female engineers to encourage other females to apply, and ensure male colleagues see that females are playing an important role in the businesses success.

    Professional Institutes
    SMET is still seen as a male world. More female role models need to be identified and have their stories told in order to start changing perceptions. The professional institutes need to take responsibility to amend their professions image. They should support the companies in promoting a successful image of Females in Engineering.

    Maternity Leave
    I accept that for women in STEM industries a career pause while on Maternity Leave can be an acute issue, due both to the rapid changes, and the need to maintain skills such as maths. The country /industry can’t afford to lose this pool of talent. So the profession should plan how returning professionals can be re-integrated, the Vodafone example quoted may be an example, however keeping skills like maths tuned during the maternity leave not just upon return to work may be something that needs addressing. A typical Masters Level Engineer will start work at age 24 (assuming coming directly from Uni). This gives only a few years until the biological alarm clock starts to ring for a female. So this star that has taken 24 years to develop has maybe 8 years to shine (as a trainee to start with) before they take a break. Say they return at age 35, then they now have over 30 years to go to state retirement age. We need to encourage these stars to continue, develop, and participate as this would generate the highest common good.

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  13. So I would say the real problem starts even before education- kids grow up from an early age with the notion that “boys toys” are typically cars , construction sets, trains etc. whilst dolls and kitchen play sets are usually targeted towards girls. At the age where maths and science start to be taught in a more applied way, I feel it is more engaging for kids when real world examples in class such as using “SUVAT equations to find the acceleration of a car,” relate to something they’ve played with for fun. This often carries on into the subjects picked for GCSE and A-Level. That’s not to say that all females who played with “girly toys”, as I did myself, want to go into the fashion/style industry and be homemakers (although these areas are historically dominated by females) but I think it definitely is a contributing factor.
    Another issue is with many schools not putting enough resources into promoting STEM through setting up related extra-curriculars or employing the necessary staff, however STEM activities are often expensive to run and with a limited budget to work with I guess schools are choosing to avoid this spending.
    Although this has definitely improved in the last few years, I also think young girls are not seeing enough people like themselves in the field and often dissuaded by this. For the women who are graduated but choosing to leave the STEM field , I can’t speak from personal experience but can only assume they’re being dissuaded by the prospect of not being supported in career development as much as their male colleagues, however I’m not so sure positive discrimination by companies is the right solution.

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  14. Undoubtedly an interesting and difficult topic to discuss. If any social group is under-represented in a team/company/industry then this will clearly affect the quality and novelty of whatever the work may be. As you say so yourselves, enforcing quotas on industry or on the education system is not the way to achieve cohesive and productive environments.

    I think that in order to truly achieve a more representative population of women in STEM then it will require a cultural shift in people’s attitudes. Everyone should be encouraged to pursue their interests and given the opportunities to experience the diversity of STEM subjects and careers. This means that anyone with any exposure to STEM roles (personally or through friends/family) needs to act as ambassadors and show the next generation (boys and girls alike) just how cool and interesting STEM is. Once they are interested, it then becomes a case of nurturing that interest. At birth, boys are not hardwired to like machines and girls to like prams and dolls – unfortunately these impressions are “taught” by society.

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  15. Increasing the number of women opting for an engineering career has always been a challenge and the emphasis on STEM and many other initiatives has achieved little in terms of addressing the imbalance. So this is a very worthwhile topic for you to address. Perceptions of engineering for females are embedded at an early age. My eldest granddaughter (a Cranleigh student), told me when she was 7 years old that she couldn’t be an engineer ‘because I am a girl’. Whether she will be remains to be seen, but she is studying the STEM subjects and achieving high grades. She now knows gender is not determinant for entry to engineering.

    As a Past President of IMech E (2009/10), I know there has been much discussion over decades on the importance of addressing the imbalance. Recent statistics illustrate that progress is very slow but moving in the right direction. Women opting to study engineering is 15% of the total. At the latest count 7.1% of I Mech E members are female. This shows an increase over what was for many years a very static 5%. I Mech E Trustee Board are currently discussing the subject and I am sure initiatives will follow. Particularly, as the incoming President Carolyn Griffiths is the third female President in 20 years.

    The major Institutions, I Mech E, IET and ICE are very conscious that they have to have a much more coordinated approach to promoting the benefits of engineering if they are to address the very considerable shortfall in people coming into engineering. Women are a key part of addressing this gap. In 2016 the 3 Institutions commissioned John Uff QC to review the situation and his report is available on the I Mech E website. In 2017 the 3 Institutions, along with the Royal Academy of Engineering, are discussing how to progress his recommendations. You will also find two recent policy papers on the I Mech E website, 5 Tribes – Personalising Engineering Education and Big Ideas – The Future of Engineering in Schools, which relate to the Gender Gap.

    Personally, I think it is very important to convey to children from a very early age how much of our lives depend on engineering. The breadth of engineering is not understood by the population at large. Communicating the benefits, whether it be satellites, pacemakers or high speed trains, very often is not related to engineering by the public. It has been encouraging in more recent years to see the BBC taking a more proactive stance in promoting science and engineering and very often doing that through female presenters.

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  16. One of the difficulties for women to overcome in a predominantly male environment is confidence. Those that do embark on an engineering career have chosen it for very good reasons, they believe they will be good at it and will enjoy the challenge. My experience is that women I have encountered are invariably better at their jobs than men, maybe because of the fact that there are bound to be more ‘journeymen’ within the ranks of male engineers.
    Another consideration is the low regard Engineers are held in, compared to other professions which makes it less attractive than medicine or law. This I believe is due in part to the overuse of the title Engineer to include everyone from vacuum cleaner repairers (domestic engineers), car mechanics (Auto engineers) and Heating engineers (Plumbers) up to fully qualified chartered Engineers responsible for designing and realising today’s new technologies upon which we all rely on and would be lost without.

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  17. I first have a question. The answers you may come up with may prove an interesting point. Can you name 5 influential British scientists or engineers? When I did this, all of my answers were men. While STEM initiative continues to do very good work with younger children (as it has been shown that below GCSE, both girls and boys are fairly equal in their interest in STEM subjects), I think that there is a fundamental lack of awareness for female STEM role models. This stems from the fact that in the past only men were acknowledged for scientific findings while sometimes it was the work of women who made them famous. As we live in a modern society where more women are being acknowledged for their work, I think that the lack of awareness for female role models will change with time and this may have an effect on the number of women taking up STEM subjects.

    I also agree with some of the comments above. Although this is definitely not true for everyone, I know a lot of men who did engineering because it was the thing they were told they ‘should’ do while the women who chose to study engineering did it because they enjoyed the subject and were interested in it. As I have also found that working in industry is quite mundane a lot of the time, it might mean that the women who did initially choose to take up engineering found the job that they eventually ended up in not fulfilling enough and leaving.

    Another point that I think is important is the role our parents play in influencing the subjects we take when we are young. A lot of parents will subconsciously allow girls to drop STEM subjects while promoting it more amongst their sons. This might also impact the number of women who eventually choose to take STEM subjects.

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  18. 1. Within my own business male engineers outnumber female engineers. Yet for my most senior engineering roles, my Technical Director is male and my Chief Systems Engineer is female.

    2. We select candidates for interview from the strength of their CVs. The primary selection criterion is best athlete – meaning, we select people for interview based on their competence and experience.

    3. During interview, we assess behaviours and team fit. We have no predisposition towards gender, race, age, handicap or sexual orientation.

    4. We are not conscious of any selection bias and are fully aware of unconscious bias.

    5. Our offices are modern, clean, offer good facilities, and other functions working in the same area (ie commercial and finance), have mostly female staff.

    6. Yet most of those selected for engineering roles are white, middle aged and male.

    Why?

    1. Most of the applicants are white, middle-aged and male.

    2. We sub-contract our labour and most the companies who supplying our candidates employ white, middle-aged male engineers.

    3. I believe most people applying for their positions are also white, middle-aged and male (through is an informed judgement not a known fact).

    Gender equality could be solved in three different ways: 1) create quotas and/or all-female shortlists, 2) encouraging more female students to enter STEM subjects and to stay in them throughout their career, 3) encourage more female engineers to apply for roles whilst ensuring gender bias does not play a part in selection.

    Personally, I am not supportive of option 1, as it is discriminatory and unhelpfully erodes confidence in all female staff by perpetuating the fear that female staff are selected because of their gender, rather than their competence. Female colleagues, are in my experience, the most opposed to quotas.

    I do support options 2 and 3. Option 2 has two elements requiring the issues of entry and retainment to be addressed. Both are challenging and need continued efforts to address. Fundamentally, we need to change the perception that engineering is for boys requiring better role models and a continued emphasis on early career choices (including more female engineers in schools). Retention is as big a challenge as I recognise from my past that good female engineers are difficult to keep within the discipline. I am not aware of the retainment statistics for male versus female but fear they may show more women leaving the profession as a percentage than their male peers. Maternity is a contributory factor that exacerbates the difficult.

    Option 3 is a big issue. It is hard to recruit people who do not apply. I do not believe it is because they feel they are wasting their time. For the past few years, you could argue that companies have been only too keen to recruit female engineers and yet still the statistics remain stubbornly static, suggesting the problem remains getting enough qualified, experienced, female staff to apply in the first place.

    From my experience is a problem of supply not demand

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  19. Great article that inspired some wider research! Interesting to see that some high level management roles are being advertised at the Engineering Council at the moment. I hope the female engineers feel that they have an equal oppurtunity to apply and that is reflected in their final pool of candidates. I also note that Engineering UK (the main vehicle that advertises the engineering profession to schools) is looking for a new CEO after the recent departure announcement of the current male CEO. Perhaps another oppurtunity for a woman? Women in such influential positions can no doubt have a positive impact on future generations of aspiring engineers.

    I have also been reflecting on the importance of men in the aim to get more women onboarded. Whilst ‘girl power’ is undeniably a powerful thing, it is arguably more powerful for a man to voice his support and belief in women having the same job oppurtunities as him. As a woman, as wrong as it might be, I would potentially trust a man to say i capable of doing a job more than a woman if I thought the woman was only saying it as part of an unspoken ‘sisterhood pact’! Whoever you would trust, it is important to get men as well as women speaking out about this issue.

    I work in the legal profession that has really promising statistics of women being recruited into powerful positions in recent years after struggling for a long time. Still a long way to go but I have no doubt that engineering as a profession will follows the same pattern!

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  20. I’m a firm believer that education (in its broadest sense) is the key to much of this. If we, as a society, can stop distinguishing between ‘things for girls’ and ‘things for boys’ (whether toys, clothing, jobs, or hobbies) then from an early age our kids will understand that there are no boundaries. From a career perspective, encouraging children to understand engineering early on is important, but so is educating parents and teachers… However excited a child may be about something, if they don’t have an outlet for that enthusiasm it’s likely to fade.
    At the other end, there is much we can do to work on our processes and procedures, but we have to make sure we’re being fair across the board. For example much of the work that has gone into removing the bias from recruitment procedures has led to some real improvements, but there are other areas where I think we aren’t quite getting it right. Personally speaking I have real issues with ‘skills for women’ courses within the University, as this often seems to come with a lack of similar courses for men. I’m fine with us offering support for things which more women than men might sign up for, but that doesn’t mean we need to exclude men from that offering.
    In terms of holding organisations accountable, I don’t agree with quotas (I can get on board with targets to an extent, as long as they leave room for not meeting them), but I also disagree with publishing statistics – numbers without any background can be taken out of context in multiple ways. Why not ask companies to publish details of their recruitment practices, or what they’ve done to ensure that these practices are fair and equal across the board? That would give us far more information about the real ethos of a company.
    One final thought – I see a lot of talk about role models, and I agree we do need to highlight the successful women in our area, but let’s not forget that a man can also be a good role model to a woman… Someone who encourages us, supports us and disagrees with us when necessary is what’s needed, and that person can be any gender you like!

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