Women ‘vital’ to engineering sector success

Amanda White, network officer at Northern Gas Networks
Amanda White, network officer at Northern Gas Networks
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Women are vital to the engineering sector as it seeks to replace the one million workers by 2020, the EEF has said.

Just 27 per cent of engineering and science technicians are female, the manufacturing organisation said.

Women make up fewer than one in 10 engineers, putting diversity in the UK’s manufacturing workforce behind that of its European rivals.

Today marks National Women in Engineering Day, which aims to highlight the importance of women to the industry.

While the number of girls gaining physics GCSE is now almost equal to the number of boys, less than 20 per cent of A-level physics students are girls, the EEF said.

Statistics from Engineering UK show that in 2013, only 14.2 per cent of engineering graduates were female.

Just over half of female engineering graduates go on to have a career in the industry, compared to more than two thirds of their male peers.

Verity O’Keefe, senior employment and skills policy advisor at EEF said the manufacturing industry must find almost one million workers in the next five years simply to replace those retiring and leaving the industry.

The organisation is calling for a 25 per cent increase in both engineering graduates and apprentices to meet demand.

She said: “Women have a vital role to play in this and we cannot afford to continue to see them excluded from the talent pipeline.

“This is why it is so important for girls to be encouraged into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and into engineering.

“Engineering is not ‘just for boys’ – it is an open and equal opportunity to enjoy an exciting, rewarding and creative long-term career.”

National Women in Engineering Day is “a timely reminder to Government, industry and educators” of their role in encouraging women to aim high and nurture ambitions, she added.

Amanda White, who was Northern Gas Networks’ first female engineer, said more women should consider the industry.

Ms White joined the firm straight from school in 1997 and has progressed through the company to become a Network officer at NGN’s Hull depot.

She said: “Beginning a career with an established company at a young age is a great start.

“I think it would be great for not only the sector, but also for the local region to see more young women in operational and engineering roles.”

Professional services firm WSP and its consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff, which advised on the building of the Shard, has around 20 per cent female engineers. At graduate level, women represent 33 per cent of its technical workforce.

Aimee Hason, principle engineer in the firm’s development planning department, said women should not be deterred by the stereotype of engineering being a man’s world.

She said: “The reality is you are just as much a part of the team as anyone else.”

Freya Shepherd, a graduate engineer at WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff, said the most challenging part of the industry is also its most enjoyable.

She said: “You need the technical ability and understanding of exactly what you are calculating in a visual manner.

“Completing a design and seeing the final product on site is rewarding. We are ultimately looking at the problems of today and making it better for current and future generations.”

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According to the EEF, the number of girls gaining physics GCSE A* to C is now almost equal to the number of boys.

But despite this, less than 20 per cent of A-level physics students are girls.

Stats from Engineering UK show that in 2013 only 14.2 per cent of engineering graduates were female.

Just over half of female Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates go into STEM roles.

This rises to 68 per cent amongst male STEM graduates.

Only 27 per cent of engineering and science technicians are female.

At less than 10 per cent, the UK has one of the lowest number of female engineers in Europe.

The average pay for an engineering apprentice is £6.50 an hour, beating other sectors.

The average graduate starting salary for engineering and technology is £26,636 – a fifth higher than the typical starting salary for other graduates.