INWED20: How rebranding engineering can drive gender balance

26 June, 2020

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TUESDAY 23 June 2020 celebrated the seventh annual International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) – the campaign looks to raise the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available within the industry. Despite COVID-19, this year’s celebrations continued – moving into the digital sphere to consider this year’s theme of #ShapeTheWorld.

Whilst women make up only 11% of the UK engineering workforce, we look to celebrate the successes and the impact that female engineers are making internationally, and, importantly, to inspire the next generation into an industry that would hugely benefit from making more strides forward in greater gender diversity.

Our efforts in this area cannot be focussed on a single day. Running beyond the campaign, we must collectively consider how we can ‘rebrand’ the engineering industry, how it can transform perceptions and how it could be a stronger influence in an area where we need to address under-representation of women.

INWED promotes the fact that engineering is a great career option for women and aims to dispel many of the stereotypical and persistent misconceptions of the industry as being ‘one for the boys’. We know this is not the case as Helen Wollaston, chief executive of WISE, describes we need more female engineers because “there is a wealth of evidence which demonstrates that greater gender diversity makes companies more adaptable, more productive and more responsive to what their customers are telling them.”

Forbes has also revealed that approximately 85% of global conglomerates believe that workplace diversity is vital for driving innovation, with teams that contain equal numbers of males and females generating 41% more revenue for their employer.

Latest analysis in Engineering UK’s ‘The State of Engineering 2019’ details that engineering roles are expected to represent around 17% of all vacancies, with just under ten per cent of these expected to be from expansion demand. Of course, we can expect these figures will be heavily impacted by COVID-19 but it is necessary to consider how important it is to ensure that university graduates make it into the engineering industry.

We have to work together not just within our own businesses, but as a sector-wide effort to truly promote such positive messages.  Encouraging girls’ passion in STEM subjects is the first step in introducing more women into the industry. Both businesses and schools must actively drive this curiosity and champion students’ inquisitiveness.

Often, girls and young women are not aware of the plethora of opportunities that a career in engineering can offer. One way to combat this is through the visibility of personable role models in media, at every level of business, work experience opportunities, as well as promoting success, via awards and networking ceremonies like the Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards.

Recruitment campaigns that provoke debate, are perception-busting, focus on the social good in engineering and enable women to relate personally to the world of engineering are most likely to be successful and so employers in the industry also need to re-think how they position their opportunities.

At Pick Everard, we’ve been running tailored #BeingPickEverard campaigns on our website and social media to showcase our exceptional female talent. We’re adapting how we position our career opportunities and we’re shaping how we develop our female talent to new levels through a new diversity and inclusion strategy. We’re considering how we can ‘stand out’ – not just for our own business – but also in taking responsibility for driving change in the wider industry. There is a strong need to demonstrate engineering as bold, diverse, and entertaining.

It’s crucial that modern-day businesses do something disruptive and different, to appeal to a completely different audience, shine a light on the contribution of women in engineering and tap into female curiosity. It’s not enough just to highlight the underrepresentation and bias, we have to collectively provide positive reinforcement of opportunity and be motivational. As we reflect on the success of another year of International Women in Engineering Day it’s a call to action for everyone  – whether in the industry or not – to ignite the interest of both current and future generations of female engineers and show them the importance of getting involved.

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