Award winning Renishaw engineer Lucy Ackland shares her thoughts on the challenges facing women in engineering in 2015.
A Project Manager within Renishaw’s Group Engineering operation and winner of the 2014 Women’s Engineering Society Award Prize, Lucy believes there are three key factors causing the low proportion of female engineers in the UK.
“National Women in Engineering Day is an appropriate time to reflect on the current number of women in engineering. Figures from the IET and Engineering UK state that our nation has the lowest proportion of female engineers in Europe, at just 6%, compared to leading countries with 30%. If this continues the UK will be unable to find the 1.82 million people with engineering skills that employers will need by 2022. In my opinion there are three main factors that cause the low percentage.
Firstly there is the shocking fact that 46% of schools in England did not send a single girl on to study A-level physics in 2011 (Institute of Physics). The ambassadorial position I have been embracing has enabled me to talk to a large number of girls between the ages of 14 and 17, and the message I keep hearing is ‘I’m no good at science’. The challenge is to find ways of empowering these girls to believe in themselves.
Secondly, in some organisations the over representation of males in the workplace can create ‘boys clubs’ and therefore not always a comfortable place for a woman to be. It is rare to see much obvious discrimination or people openly trying to make women feel uncomfortable in their position, but we need to work harder to create an inclusive working environment that everyone feels comfortable to be a part of.
Thirdly, it has been estimated that 22,000 qualified women have not returned to the engineering sector after a maternity or career break. This is a huge number considering how few women actually work in engineering. These are trained engineers that we can ill afford to lose when facing such a drastic skills shortage. What can businesses do to be more flexible when it comes to working hours and childcare for men and women alike?
I have found my career exciting, challenging, diverse and enjoyable so there is no reason why many women shouldn’t feel the same if they were to choose this profession. I will continue to work hard to spread my message in my efforts to help change outdated engineering stereotypes.”
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