The construction and engineering industry has long had a problem with diversity, particularly when it comes to the proportion of women working within the sector. In fact, the overall retention rate of female science, engineering and technology graduates is considerably lower than that of males, according to WES, with males typically securing more jobs in the engineering sector than their female counterparts. This gap means engineering lacks much-needed input from a broad base of contributors, with women’s voices stifled by the overwhelming surge of men working in the industry.
Indeed, the industry can learn much from women, as discussed in this Anderselite blog. The traditionally male-dominated environment is facing significant disruption in the form of new processes and technologies, and in order to keep up, it needs to listen to all voices – not just those of men. Statistics show that diversity within any workplace has a positive effect, both on team dynamics and morale and overall business success. Yet many industries, and in particular engineering, still struggle to employ and retain people from different cultural, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, not to mention genders.
Allan Cook from the Diversity Leadership groups points to this lack of depth in a report on Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering, saying that with ethnic minority people make up 25% of all engineering graduates, they comprise just 6% of working professional engineers. The problem traces back to university and high school, where there is a small band of time in which girls are interested in STEM subjects. From the age of 16, while 94% of boys are studding maths, physics, computing or a technical vocational qualification, just 35% of girls do the same, according to the Wise Campaign. And while 29% of boys go on to study maths, physics, computer science or engineering, just 9% of girls study one of these subjects. This presents a major opportunity for schools and universities to make these subjects more appealing and inclusive for everyone.
While the current outlook may seem bleak, there are signs of improvement. There were nearly 12,000 more women professional engineers in 2017 than in 2016 – yet they still make up just 11% of the total number of those in engineering professional occupations in the UK. While progress is happening, more needs to be done to ensure the industry is more diverse and inclusive moving forward.