Some practical ways for engineering companies to improve gender diversity | Comment

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Today we celebrate the International Day of Women in Engineering. There are so many brilliant innovations going on in the STEM industries right now, I am adamant that we are using today to encourage more companies to look at the massive pool of talent waiting to be discovered.

Historically, we know that engineering has been a male dominated industry. Indeed, only 12% of people working in engineering are women, but out of that small percentage there are a lot of amazing and inspiring women.

These role models can encourage girls to think about different career paths. From Lilian Bland, one of the first women to design, build and fly an airplane, to communications engineer Hedy Lamarr. Famous for her acting roles in the 1930s, Lamarr also invented a remote-controlled communication system for the US military. This influenced the creation of many communication devices today, including WiFi.

As Minister for Women, you will of course not be surprised to hear me bang the drum for the women’s desirability.

The benefits of a diverse business extend beyond fairness, and it certainly shouldn’t be seen as a simple exercise in the check mark. Up to £ 250bn of new value could be added to the UK economy if women start new businesses at the same pace as UK men.

It just makes good business sense to have a range of experiences and skills in your boardrooms and across your business. McKinsey has found that organizations in the top 25% of their leadership teams when it comes to gender diversity are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability.

Businesses recognize this, and before the pandemic we had a record number of female jobs and a higher percentage of women on FTSE boards than ever before, with women on corporate boards. of FTSE 350 in the industrial engineering sector at 39.5%.

My position as Minister for Women and Minister of Education gives me a unique perspective on how girls’ subject choices influence the careers in which they find their way.

Last year, I was shocked to see that men were 10 times more likely than women to take an engineering-related apprenticeship. We want that to change, and we are taking steps to engage with the sector, for example through the Employer Network of Diversity Learning Champions. There is no doubt that we need to encourage more women to choose and stay in engineering careers. Education and industry professionals have the power to have a great influence here.

In 2019, 37% of girls entered at least one STEM A level compared to 51% of boys.

We all need to carefully consider what more we can do to support and encourage girls to consider STEM careers – there is a role here for the government of course, but also for parents, teachers, guidance counselors. and employers. I have no doubt that by showing young women the wide range of careers available in engineering, we are increasing their opportunities and choices. In addition to attracting the best talent in the sector.

And when it comes to all of your employees, there are some very simple changes that are already proven to work, ensuring that everyone is able to have a long, successful career and reach their full potential.

Part of the reason is the need to break down outdated stereotypes and gender norms that can prevent girls from choosing STEM subjects that can lead to fulfilling careers in the industry. These stereotypes limit aspirations, preventing young women from reaching their potential.

But we are making progress. Since 2010, there has been a 31% increase in girls’ entries to STEM A levels in England. We have also seen the number of women accepted into full-time undergraduate STEM courses increase by 34% in the UK between 2010 and 2019. Last year we published behavioral information research this helps us all to understand which interventions might be most helpful in continuing this trend.

And when it comes to all of your employees, there are some very simple changes that are already proven to work, ensuring that everyone is able to have a long, successful career and reach their full potential.

Industry bodies have found that a lack of labor flexibility in sectors such as engineering, especially in managerial positions, has led women to take career breaks and suffer the negative impacts that this can have on the progression.

Correcting this is incredibly simple and will ensure that women already in the workforce can stay, even if they are under pressure outside the workplace.

This doesn’t just mean allowing employees to work from home, although that is a useful option. Employers can introduce other flexible work options such as work sharing or increase the number of managerial positions that can be filled on a part-time basis. This will help organizations keep a skilled workforce together, ensuring that they are happier, which in turn can lead to increased productivity and income.

There are many other ways employers can encourage diversity in their workforce and the government is here to help.

We have produced a number of publications that highlight practical steps employers can take to increase diversity, including advice on promoting family-friendly policies, transparency in the promotion process, compensation and reward and ensuring that recruitment is carried out. in a fair and open manner.

I think we’ve all seen that in the face of adversity, companies have adapted incredibly well to the new world we find ourselves in.

We need to harness some of these positive changes companies have embraced as a result of covid-19 and flexible working is certainly one of them.

I have engaged with a range of STEM industries, calling on them to continue to champion gender equality and introduce innovative measures and bring about meaningful and lasting change.

Engineering is an example of an industry perfectly positioned to be a leader of this change, setting an example for others and showing the benefits of encouraging more girls to view engineering as a career.

Baroness Elizabeth Berridge is Minister for Women

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