Women in Engineering

This article was written by Rachael Wilde, Team Lead at Advantage Resourcing.

“Sometimes I’m asked if I ever feel like a woman in a man’s world. I must say that being blonde and a female in this industry is certainly an unusual factor. Does it open doors? Of course it does. You are noticed and remembered for one, and that must be a good thing when you are in a suppliers’ market. It maybe even get you a sales lead, or better still, discounts on machinery. However, believe it or not, hands-on welders don’t notice me that much really.”

“I don’t think that it is just welding or engineering is a male dominated world, the hardest part was proving to my father and also my brother that I was capable of running a business in such industry. They had a bond by gender so I had to rise above that but I think I have cracked it now.”

Claire Spillane from Westermans International, www.westermans.com/ “A Woman In Welding”

However, not all women have had the same experience as Claire Spillane and it’s disheartening to read that someone has had to change their career path due to the effect of others’ actions and prejudices.

Glynn Davies, 25, said she started an apprenticeship in construction but did not complete it due to the discrimination she faced. She said: “I wanted to be a bricklayer so I started an apprenticeship with City and Guilds. I was 17 and couldn’t wait to get muddy. From the moment I stepped on to the building side, I was automatically treated differently. There was one other woman but we were two out of 20 and it quickly became difficult to persevere.” Davies said she experienced constant sexist remarks such as “get us a cuppa tea” or “be careful, you don’t want to break a nail”. “When I approached my course coordinator, the general response was “it’s only banter” or, my favourite, “don’t be emotional”. The whole experience was irritating and emotionally draining so I stopped.”

Women lagging behind the race in apprenticeships – The Guardian, 2016

According to a 2017 Young Women’s Trust survey, there were “25 men for every woman starting an apprenticeship in engineering”:

“Despite 71% of young people agreeing that engineering is a career equally suited to men and women, young women tell us that they feel locked out of certain professions and funnelled down a narrow range of career paths. Barriers frequently cited in conversations with young women range from a lack of flexibility, support or mentoring to discrimination, harassment and bullying. Many organisations are making efforts to tackle these barriers but the perception for many young women, particularly those taking their first steps into a career via an apprenticeship, is that they are not welcome in those sectors and have little chance of being successful. These perceptions and indeed the reality faced by many young women entering sectors such as engineering, construction and IT, continue to limit the pool of talent available to close the skills gaps.”

Young Women’s Trust November 2017 Young Women and Apprentices: Still Not Working?

What influences our career choices?

New perspectives and fresh ideas. Diversity gives us the competitive edge we need to stray out in the front. Our unique training scheme as has been designed to support ambitious female engineers who want to make an impression, whilst studying for their degree. It includes being paired up with a buddy from our Women in Engineering Network and Allies group. Plus, well give you a £1,500 bursary on the understanding that you return to us for repeat placements or are offered a place to join our graduate scheme when you’ve completed your studies.

According to LinkedIn Insights, the Engineering market of just under 79,000 engineers within the UK is made up of 93% men and 7% women. In terms of location, the female Engineering population within Royal Leamington Spa is 14%, the highest within the UK, and global, well-established brands such as Jaguar Land Rover, Ricardo & Aston Martin are the top employers in this area for engineers.

Could working for these recognised brands entice females to explore a career in engineering? Could their marketing and recruitment teams have programmes in place with local schools and colleges to highlight working within the engineering industry? There are 40 other locations within the UK which have less than 5% females working within an engineering role.

What are these companies doing differently to bridge the gap between gender within engineering?

I personally think schemes like this are a brilliant idea. When I was in school, and even having an engineer for a father, I don’t believe I was ever guided in the direction of an engineering based or even a ‘manual’ career choice.  As a talkative person, I found myself leaning towards jobs which would let me talk to people. Looking back, it does make me think that if I was aware of opportunities, or was nudged in another direction to look at my other skills, would I be using the methodical skill set which I have always had within another arena?

I did also find it interesting that not only are the number of women within a male dominated role/industry rising, but can the situation be flipped to explore how difficult it is for males to succeed within a typically female dominated industry?

In conclusion, isn’t it about time that we see more companies actively trying to make their industry more appealing to both men and women? Are educational establishments (and parents/guardians) doing more to highlight unconventional career options to both – male and female genders? Time will tell.

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