56% of UK engineering businesses believe they have done enough to boost female numbers in the industry, say the UK’s premier subcontract manufacturing supply chain show.
Subcon has revealed new figures from its Annual barometer of the UK manufacturing and engineering supply chain that indicate a slow down in efforts to encouraging female engineering talent to either enter or re-enter UK manufacturing and engineering.
In 2018, the respondents were asked what they thought needed to be done to encourage women to consider engineering or manufacturing as a career. Just 7% said they thought that enough had been done; but for 2019, this figure has leapt to 56%.
Looking at the potential methods to encourage this choice of career, greater transparency around pay was the number one tactic used to entice women to the sector, according to 81% of respondents in 2019 – another huge leap from the 2018 figure of 39%.
Women’s Engineering Society sets the tone
This year, Subcon is celebrating 100 years of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and at the annual show in May will be dedicating a morning session to the need to improve UK engineering’s gender balance. Guest speakers will include WES CEO Elizabeth Donnelly, and Jan Peters, MD of Katalytik.
According to WES, there are approximately 20,000 qualified female engineers that could be enticed to return to the sector. When asked how this could be achieved, respondents to the survey identified flexible work patterns as the main tactic (consistent with 2018) with tax incentives/childcare vouchers and return to work programmes equally popular as second choices.
“Campaigns to get more women into engineering have been more visible and there may be a sense that the job is done,” said Elizabeth Donnelly, CEO, Women’s Engineering Society.
Elizabeth continued: “However, it takes years to build a pipeline of women in engineering and we must keep pushing. When I went to university in the late 1980s, there would be one or two women studying for an engineering degree.
“These women are just now beginning to take senior roles because it takes up to 30 years to get to the right stage in a career – we have just seen Air Marshall Susan Gray become the highest ranked woman in the military ever. And if women took career breaks it will take a little longer. So, we are seeing a few women reaching the top of engineering, with more women coming through below. It’s still not enough, barely 12% of all engineers are women, so we need to keep attracting women into engineering.”
Gordon Kirk, event director, Subcon, said: “Getting more women into engineering, or in many cases, back into engineering remains a tough nut for the industry to crack. It seems there has been little change in ideas of how women can be encouraged into the industry, but these figures suggest that perhaps the appetite amongst businesses has shifted.”
Gordon continued: “There is clearly a massive realisation of the need for pay transparency. These should provide very interesting contexts for our partnership with the Women’s Engineering Society this year as we celebrate the contribution to industry made by women throughout UK manufacturing and engineering.”