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Tackling the gender crisis in engineering

Tackling the gender crisis in engineering

 July 06, 2017

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As part of International Women in Engineering Day, CEOs and senior leaders from some of the UK's top engineering companies joined the Institute of Engineering and Technology in a call for action to address the gender imbalance in the industry.

With the UK engineering workforce sitting at only 9 per cent female, there is much work to be done to increase diversity in the field. The shocking statistics featured in the IET Skills & Demand in Industry Survey 2016, also showed there is a huge 63% of UK engineering employers that still do not have gender diversity initiatives in place.

Two companies who joined in this call for action at the IET #9percentisnotenough conference are global engineering companies, GKN and AECOM.

GKN understands diversity is key

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 need their employees to be different too.

Russ Dunn, Senior Vice President Engineering & Technology at GKN Aerospace stated:

"My personal values were inspired at an early age by Martin Luther-King's great speech to judge people on the content of their character, which for me transcends gender, race, sexuality, religion or culture. Today, engineering and in particular engineering leadership, does not represent the diversity of the populations we live in - and as such fails to attract, select and develop the best talent. We need to tackle the unconscious bias both in industry and in our communities that propagates this situation. We also need to adapt our recruitment and industry practices to allow the best talent to be found and to give people from all backgrounds the confidence and the desire to explore and embrace the world of engineering. We are the innovators, the creators who change the world, but we can't do that if we only represent a fraction of its people."

Paving the way for change at AECOM

As the largest global engineering design firm, AECOM has a significant platform to lead the way in terms of engineering and diversity.

Peter Flint, Chief Executive, Buildings + Places EMIA, AECOM, said: “At AECOM we are striving to create diverse teams who can flourish because of a highly inclusive culture, and we're proud of the advances we're making as a company in supporting our people to take action: supporting STEM programmes, leading the industry through innovation and celebrating personal achievements. We hope that by joining forces with others within our industry we can properly, and more widely, address and influence change.”

A solid commitment to change

While the industry leaders making the call to action have already introduced initiatives within their own organisations to support greater gender diversity, they are now committing, as an industry, to take further steps within their own organisations to improve the 9% figure, which involves taking one or more of the following actions:

  • Formal gender diversity programme to measure and report on female recruitment and retention
  • New approach to advertising jobs in order to attract more women
  • ‘Work returner’ programmes
  • Mentoring and sponsorship programmes
  • Career planning and flexible working
  • Affinity groups and networking opportunities for women
  • Promote apprenticeship and work experience programmes to girls
  • Awards and initiatives to celebrate female engineering role models such as the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards, which celebrates the best young women engineers in the UK.

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