Engineering Gender Equality needed for Manufacturing industrys Future
23rd November 2015
The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe, and it could soon be a huge problem for our whole manufacturing and engineering industry.
With only a mere 8% of female British engineers compared to Germany's 15%, Sweden's 25% and Latvia's 30%, the UK is lagging majorly behind the rest of the continent in terms of gender equality, and it's having a severe effect on the already problematic lack of engineering workforce in a rapidly developing sector.
EEF, a manufacturer's organisation, has reported that four out of five firms are struggling to fill their new vacancies; an unsurprising statistic given the remarkably low rate of females working in the industry. Verity O'Keefe from the EEF explains that because of this imbalance, "the talent pool is pretty much half of what it could be", and that "If we are not really tackling that [gender] issue, we are going to have larger skills gaps than other industries that have done something about it, such as medicine."
Young students appear to be dropping the academic subjects needed to study engineering such as maths and physics as soon as possible, especially young girls. In fact, nearly half of the mixed state schools in England did not enter one girl to study A-Level physics. A factor causing this could be the ideas of gender enforced upon children from a very early age; it is undeniable that subjects like engineering, science and maths are seen as male-appropriate, and isn't a career parents are aspiring to see their daughters go into. This kind of biased thinking is alienating the majority of the female population from considering a career in an industry like manufacturing, and giving them a false idea of what that kind of engineering actually involves.
A rare example of a woman who has climbed her way up the manufacturing ladder is Julie Watson, who became supervisor at a bottling plant in West Yorkshire at the age of just 25. Whilst she says she hasn't had to face too much sexism in her 30-year career, with the exception of one incident; when applying for a training course in glass technology and engineering, she was asked ???Why do you want to apply for something like this? Wouldn't you be more suited to a secretarial position?' This clearly backwards attitude is part of the reason why women are not being enticed into applying for, or staying at, roles in engineering.
Role models such as Julie will play a huge part in closing the gender gap and encouraging girls to see engineering as an acceptable and desirable career by showing them the success they could potentially achieve.
Business secretary Vince Cable has spoken out about his concern that the national shortage of engineers, which this gender issue is obviously exacerbating, could be a threat to the growth and recovery of the UK economy, of which only 10% is contributed by the manufacturing industry. Making things in Britain is a vitally important way to put money back into Britain, and hopefully the increasing awareness of the issue of gender inequality in engineering could be a step towards developing our engineering industry as a whole.
Source: The Guardian
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