Warning over lack of female engineers

Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and advanced manufacturing, has urged industrialists to close the gender gap by getting more women into industry.

"Women are a great untapped resource at a time when we need a wealth of new talent and higher level skills to improve competitiveness," said Semta's operations director, Lynn Tomkins. "They comprise half of the working population yet only 21% of the workforce in UK advanced manufacturing and engineering are women and only 6% of engineers are women. That's not good enough." The latest university admissions statistics show that 33.4% of successful undergraduate applicants for science subjects in 2011 were female, compared to 37% the previous year. Only 19% of engineering applicants were female. The issue is further compounded by the fact that, of the minority of women who study engineering and technology, only 51% go on to a career in industry, compared to 70% of their male counterparts. A report issued recently by Women into Science and Engineering (WISE), sponsored by BAE Systems, found girls were put off careers in the sector by lack of careers advice, female role models and fear of sexism in the workplace. It also revealed that the UK compares badly with the rest of Europe in having women in STEM careers – 9% cent compared with a 17% average. Tomkins added: "The sector, which contributes £250billion turnover to the UK economy, needs to recruit and train 82,000 scientists, engineers and technologists by 2016 and upskill 363,000 of the current technical workforce whose qualifications are below world class standards. "We need careers advisers, employers and parents to help girls understand the opportunities which exist. There are some great role models of women achievers but we need more to inspire the next generation coming through the education system."