woman wearing a white lab coat working on an engineering project, International Women in Engineering Day

There are now over 50,000 women in engineering professional roles in the UK – almost double the number a decade ago.

However, the number of women in tech roles has flatlined at 16 per cent since 2009. The industry has a clear role to play in managing this disconnect and encouraging women to consider a career in engineering.

This is why days such as International Women in Engineering Day are so important. Not only is it a day for women to recognise and reflect on their success, it also provides the industry with the opportunity to make sure it continues to engage women and put measures in place to support their entry into engineering and other STEM roles.

The root of the problem

Sara Boddy

Women still only account for just over 10 per cent of engineering professionals. According to Sara Boddy, Senior Director, F5 Labs: “There’s no denying that engineering and technology is a male dominated industry. In my experience growing up, computers simply weren’t something many girls were interested in, perhaps because they weren’t marketed that way. I still think we’re in a situation where computers and gaming are still very sexist worlds. I mention gaming specifically because that’s how a lot of kids get passionate about computers. They’ve got gaming consoles and iPads and they want to figure out how they work, or they build their own gaming server. These products are still not being designed or marketed with girls in mind, and I think that contributes to a lack of interest on the female side.”

So, what’s the answer to this problem? Sara believes the solution lies in finding ways to tell interesting stories about what this industry does. “We need to drive early involvement at state and local school level. More details about how cybersecurity makes an impact on the world would excite and inspire kids to get into the sector. It may be a while before we start seeing significant differences in terms of gender balance within the industry at all levels, but I’m positive that change is coming. With girls in primary school now learning coding, I’m hopeful we’ll have a more level playing field in years to come.”

Creating a welcoming environment

Aine McCaugheyA supportive and nurturing environment is also essential to retaining and encouraging new talent. For Aine McCaughey, Senior Software Engineer at Civica, this is achieved through training: “When I saw an advertisement on Twitter that Code First Girls was looking for volunteers to help teach its Introduction to HTML, CSS, and JavaScript course, it was something that I couldn’t pass up. Women come from all backgrounds and career paths to take part in these courses, and in some cases, we see participants seriously consider switching careers to give tech a chance. It is incredibly humbling and exciting to be part of something that nurtures women and allows them to explore all the options that a tech career can offer them.”

Aine is currently participating in the Civica Potential programme, a leadership course that will also provide her with a qualification. “Taking this course is allowing me to develop skills such as time management, conflict resolution, and managing a budget. These skills will be hugely beneficial in equipping me to take on leadership and mentoring roles in the future and ensuring I can continue to support young professionals entering the industry.”

Natasha KiroskaWomen should also feel empowered in the workplace, and Natasha Kiroska, Solutions Engineer at IPsoft believes this can be achieved through a number of ways. “Ladies entering the profession should follow their passion and their dreams, believe in themselves, and work hard at the same time. They should gravitate only towards people, professionals, and companies that will appreciate their work and contributions, and will give them the chance to grow and prove themselves. They shouldn’t feel intimidated by anyone else’s behaviour, as we all come from different cultures and backgrounds. Finally, they should always remain professional, take every opportunity that comes their way, and enjoy their amazing STEM journey.”

International Women in Engineering Day provides women in the industry with a day to celebrate their successes, but it should also be a reminder of how much more work there is to be done to increase the number of roles held by women across the sector. From ensuring young people are educated on a career in engineering in school, all the way through to creating a nurturing working environment, the responsibility is on everyone to make sure more women consider a career in engineering.

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