Are hard hats giving engineers a bad image?

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

Sainsbury Management Fellows (SMF) has announced the results of its 2015 Hard Hat Index. And it shows that the engineering sector is still using hard hat images to promote engineers.

"Engineers change every aspect of our lives, from medicine to social media," SMF President David Falzani said. "Yet, the hard hat construction image has become synonymous with engineering jobs, limiting the perception of a diverse profession. This has a real impact on young people choosing not to go into engineering and employers' ability to recruit engineering graduates who don't relate to hard hat images."

SMFs' latest Hard Hat Index recorded a total of 257 hard hat images depicting engineers in advertising and articles in selected engineering media. Compared with the 2014 Index this is a 12.23% increase in the total number of hard hats featured in engineering media and nearly 24% increase compared to 2013.

A YouGov survey conducted for SMF when it first launched the Hard Hat Index revealed that just 19% of respondents thought of engineers as people doing exciting jobs and only 36% saw them as doing work that changes our lives, even though they are the heart of innovation across so many industries.

Although the Hard Hat Index is a whimsical study, it allows SMF to raise awareness of the problem of the visual representation of engineers in the media and marketing materials and highlights the need to encouraging engineering firms to re-think how they depict engineering professionals.

But is the trade media the relevant group to be surveyed on this topic, as it inherently addresses people already on the 'inside' of the industry? Eureka asked Falzani if it should actually be the national media whose portrayal of engineers is relevant as they are the ones reaching and influencing the non-engineering public. He responded: "The key point is that in order to influence the critical influencer groups of teachers and parents, we need to influence the mass media, but can't do that until we address the industry's own media. If we can't get our own media to reflect the correct image and understanding of what engineering is then there's little prospect of getting the message across to less vested parties such as national media. The Hard Hat Index is partly about encouraging leading by example, and partly about getting the engineering community to start to recognise the importance of the image it portrays in changing the national level perception."

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