Are we ever going to fix the gender gap?

Nicola Hindle, Managing Director
19 July 2017
Image of an Amey employee on a construction site.
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Increasing the number of women in the industry means challenging outdated myths and misconceptions about what modern engineering actually involves

A statistic that you saw a lot of during the recent International Women in Engineering Day is that women make up just 9% of the UK’s engineering workforce. And, sadly, we’re trailing behind our European cousins when it comes to attracting women into the industry.

It’s a dim picture. But it’s not one that is wholly confined to the engineering sector - although I recognise the industry is one of the worst offenders. Shockingly, in the UK, more men named John run FTSE 100 companies than women.

So, what’s the problem? I could spend an age debating the cause of the gender gap in engineering. Is it schools? Is it parents? Is it the industry itself? In all honesty, I don’t think it’s any one thing, but rather a combination of everything wrapped up in outdated myths and misconceptions about what modern engineering actually involves.

What is crystal clear is that we need to be actively addressing the issue because a lack of diversity in business is a serious problem. McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report says “We know intuitively that diversity matters”. It’s also increasingly clear that it makes sense in purely business terms, showing that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts. And research from the Royal Academy of Engineering and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council suggests that nearly 65% of engineering employers say a shortage of engineers in the UK is a threat to their business.

As a large business, we need to be challenging this issue. We need to use our reputation as a leading engineering firm to help change the perception of the sectors we work in.

So why haven’t we fixed it already? Both intuition and qualitative data shows that gender diversity - and any other kind of diversity for that matter - is good for business. So why, when women have been working in engineering for over 100 years, are we still trying to fix the gender gap?

Again, I don’t think there’s any one answer to this question. But I do know what I’m doing to help, and what Amey, as a business, is doing to help. And that’s why campaigns like International Women in Engineering Day are so important - and we’re proud to support. Because by working together, by shining a light on all the problems we know exist and by refusing to stand idly by and hoping this issue will fix itself, we’re helping to close the gap, for good.

To mark this year’s International Women in Engineering Day, we have made a commitment to ourselves and to the wider industry that by 2020, over 30% of our engineers will be women. And we’ve got an aggressive plan of engagement and investment to help us achieve this goal in just three years.

Once we reach this, we’ll set another milestone and another if we need to. We’re not going to quit until our business truly represents the diversity of the communities we work in.

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