Women in engineering: a Roevin interview
With the launch of National Women in Engineering Day at the forefront of our minds, we interviewed Gemma McGregor - one of Roevin’s most experienced female recruitment consultants - to find out more about the issues surrounding the shortage of women (and skills) in the engineering sector. Gemma’s commentary makes it clear that whilst the industry is clearly doing more to encourage women in to engineering careers, greater efforts at an educational level are required.
When asked about the main challenges facing women in engineering, Gemma talked about the problem of under-representation: with a much higher percentage of men in the industry, a lack of information in schools concerning the opportunities for women has left the balance unchecked.
“I grew up in Falkirk a few miles from one of the biggest oil refineries in the UK and yet engineering was never once suggested as a possible career path for myself or any of my female friends. However, a large number of my male school friends are now working on the refinery in various engineering roles, both blue and white collar. Educating women at school about the opportunities within the engineering sector is a good place to start.”
Gemma explains that although the industry has come a long way in recent years, there is still evidence of gender bias — perhaps attributed to the low number of female engineers. Working in a male dominated environment can be very different to working in a team with a good gender mix. To overcome this, awareness of the opportunities for women within the industry must increase — in order to redress the misconceptions that often surround engineering.
Poised for action
Employers are now realising the benefits of recruiting a diverse team, and many are taking a proactive stance by introducing suitable female candidates. This can allow for fresh perspectives and varied viewpoints by bringing more diversity and new ideas — perhaps resulting in processes and outcomes that are different from those of an all male team.
The industry is changing, as Gemma explains; "A number of employers within the oil and gas sector are now actively encouraging more women to pursue a career in engineering; in a bid to increase awareness of the sector — and the opportunities available to women — they're taking part in career fairs and implementing school and college visits. The government has also announced 'Developing Women Engineers’ programme — a £10m investment aimed to encourage women to enter the industry. This coupled with events like National Women in Engineering Day will help to challenge perceptions and encourage more women into this exciting sector.”
But Gemma believes that this is not enough, education providers must take responsibility too. Encouraging more women to study engineering will have an enormous part to play in increasing the number of female engineers.
Both further and higher education providers must challenge the traditional perception of gender roles by making sure that women are encouraged to consider all available opportunities.
The future of engineering
The current skills gap presents an unparalleled opportunity for UK businesses, government and educational bodies to facilitate the advancement of female engineers: key industry players need to ensure they’re educating the potential workforce of tomorrow on the vast opportunities available to both men and women.
With the constant advances in technology, a career in engineering can offer a stable, challenging and rewarding environment to work in — providing continuous and exciting opportunities for growth, development, and remuneration.
“With skills shortages rife, it’s important that all avenues are pursued to increase the number of qualified engineers in the UK marketplace, and women are encouraged to view engineering as a viable career path.”
As with any career choice, Gemma advises young women to do their research and ask questions. The more knowledge that people have regarding the sector, the easier they will find it to make well informed and educated decisions on working within engineering, and which route to follow.