It seems obvious, but if we want to design a world that is meant to work for everyone, we need women in the room. But this is rarely the case.

Most offices are five degrees too cold for women, because the formula to determine their temperature was developed in the 1960s based on the metabolic resting rate of a 40-year-old, 70kg man; women’s metabolisms are slower.

Despite research showing that women are more likely to own an iPhone than men, the average smartphone is now 5.5 inches, allowing the average man to comfortably use his device one handed – but the average woman’s hand is not much bigger than the handset itself.

These are all examples from the excellent work of feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez – most famous for campaigning for better representation of women on British banknotes – who argues that the people taking the decisions that affect us all are mostly white, able-bodied men.

This also plays out in the workplace, and notably in engineering. We naturally think of people “like us” when we design anything, but if women were better represented, this absence – and the disparities it creates in our products – would not be so evident.

So, it’s is a real concern that a recent survey revealed that more than two thirds of men in Britain believe that women now enjoy equal opportunities. By and large, women aren’t in the room, but many men seem to believe they are.

But this isn’t just a problem for British manufacturers, it’s also an opportunity.

Because the reality is that female engineers can achieve more than more equally designed products. Diverse teams don’t just design better – they’re also more productive. Quite literally, good business is good for business.

Nonetheless, we also need to acknowledge that this is not just a question of recruitment, and that there remains a problem on the supply-side.

Not only does the UK constantly need more engineers – Raytheon has vacancies for roughly 100 engineers at any given time, and it is estimated that the UK will need 1.8 million new engineers by 2025 – the UK has the lowest percentage (11 per cent of total workforce) of female engineers on the continent and only 24 per cent of UK STEM roles are currently held by women.

That’s not just because employers are stubbornly refusing to recruit thousands of excellent female candidates. It also reflects the fact that, despite many fine words, we have yet to succeed in persuading more women to enter engineering roles, or even consider careers like mine to be viable for them.

While there have been many well-intentioned initiatives to get more women in STEM, for me it’s about encouraging people who don’t necessarily have traditional engineering backgrounds to consider a career in tech.

I for one, am not your “typical engineer”. In fact, I have a language degree, but I was intrigued by the idea of coding to solve problems. For me it was just another language. I couldn’t get onto a programming course without some work experience, so I took a secretarial course and did enough work to be accepted. As soon as I started programming, I loved it.

But that’s not an opportunity available to everyone, so we need more employers to be receptive to looking beyond the “perfect candidate”.

At Raytheon, for example, our HR director will tell you that you don’t need to be a perfect fit on day one – if you bring 70 per cent to the table, we will invest in you and provide the training to bring the remaining 30 per cent – and I have made the switch between everything from manufacturing and finance, to service industries, and now cyber and intelligence.

A lot of people might think that’s unusual, but I see this broad CV as an asset. Techniques and technologies are always changing, and it can be a challenge to get out of your comfort zone and try something new – and it provides me with a varied set of experiences and a unique outlook, and the change has always kept me engaged and interested. More hiring managers should look beyond the traditional engineering CV to identify talent.

I am delighted to have a job where innovation and creativity are richly rewarded. It is an exciting time to join a sector that will change radically over the next decade and beyond, but to achieve a real cultural shift, we all need to be committed to championing gender diversity and create more opportunities for women to enter, advance and thrive in the tech sector.

My hope is that in future, female engineers won’t have to face the same trials that myself and many of my peers had to deal with. That feeling of being outnumbered when entering a lecture hall of 300 people where fewer than 10 are female; the sense of not belonging in their working environment; or being viewed as a “token” female. Those kinds of things shouldn’t be concerns for the women who follow in my footsteps, because there should be more women in the room.

Then we can really move on from a world designed for men.

About the author

Therese is a Test Engineer in Cyber and Intelligence for Raytheon.