How do we close the gender gap?

The theme for this year’s National Women in Engineering Day is ‘Raising Profiles’, and it aims to highlight the incredible work already being done by industry-leading women. To mark the day, industrial components and engineering services supplier, Neutronic has produced an in depth report.

Entitled ‘Women in Engineering: What can be done to fix the gender gap?’, the report examines the state of the industry at present, what the future has in store and, most importantly, what work is being done by women already working in engineering.

In order for more women to enter engineering fields, the report says, change needs to happen both inside the industry and out. After studying, working and teaching in the industry for years, four women from different disciplines of engineering and manufacturing are able to give their own recommendations on what needs to be done to fix the gender gap, and how more young girls can be encouraged to take up STEM subjects.

Although research has shown that people’s perceptions of the industry appear to be becoming more diverse, with a survey by Neutronic showing that 60% of people believe that engineering and manufacturing have become more attractive fields to women in the past 10 years, a great deal of work still needs to be done.

Lucy Ackland, a project manager who started her career through an apprenticeship, believes that the first thing that needs to change is people’s outside perceptions of engineering: “The industry should make an effort to dismiss common misconceptions about engineering workplaces. Nowadays, engineering facilities are clean, modern and interesting places to work. However, many people still think of them as the dirty, unattractive manufacturing facilities from decades ago.”

As children and young adults come to choose the subjects they will study, the main influencer is often cited as schools and teachers. But those with the most influence are actually the parents. Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, Professor of Enterprise and Engineering Education at the University of Sheffield, believes that more needs to be done to educate parents, and only then will youngsters feel inspired to take up engineering.

“I think a lot has been done to encourage young girls to take up sciences at an early age. But by the time they are encouraged it’s too late,” Prof Rodriguez-Falcon said. “Mum and dad are the first influences of what we perceive to be a boy’s job or a girl’s job. Mum and dad tend to not know what an engineer or scientist is. What we need to do is train mum and dad, so that they can train the little ones.”