A recent survey from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) reveals that the engineering sector lags in the area of diversity. Since 2008, the proportion of female engineers has remained at just 6%, and even more worrying, nearly half of engineering employers are not taking any action to improve workplace diversity. If the sector wants to improve matters, engineering employers and education institutions will need to tackle the issue at its grassroots and boost their collaboration, according to Paul Lambert from Hay Group.
In its latest diversity report, IET surveyed 400 firms on the diversity of their workforce and the extent to which they actively stimulate a more gender-balanced workforce. The results reveal that since 2008 the proportion of female engineers has remained at just 6%, making engineering one of the most male-dominated sectors in the professional services industry. According to Lynne Palmer from campaign group Wise, which promotes female talent in beta disciplines, the report's findings are “really disappointing” yet at the same time “no real surprise”.
Paul Lambert from management consultancy Hay Group confirms that workforce diversity in engineering indeed is a long-standing issue. He states that the root-cause of the problem can be traced throughout the system. There are for instance relatively little female engineering professors within education institutions, setting a male-centric image from the start. In addition, engineering firms have been relatively slow in adopting diversity into their branding and embracing performance management that stimulates diversity, such as for instance flexible working.
In his view the sector needs a concerted effort across the entire industry to improve the statistics. Another key element is closer collaboration between academic institutions and employers, in order to encourage young females to choose engineering as a career path. “Closer collaboration between organisations and higher education institutions will be key to change the image of engineering for the next generation of talent and ensure the future skills pipeline is as diverse as possible.”
War for talent
Nigel Fine, Chief Executive of IET, adds that stakeholders in the engineering ecosystem should act swiftly considering the war for talent which is expected in the coming years. “Research suggests we need to find 87,000 new engineers each year for the next decade, so now is the time to act.”