How National Women in Engineering Day could Help Fill the Skills Gap

You may not know it, but today, 23rd June 2016, is not just the day of the EU Referendum, it is also National Women in Engineering Day 2016. National Women in Engineering Day is celebrated every 23rd June, and this year is the third year the day is being celebrated. The purpose of the day is to raise the profile of women in engineering, and put the spotlight on the engineering career opportunities that are available to women.

The day was originally created in 2014 by the charity Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to celebrate their 95th anniversary. WES was formed in 1919 at the end of the First World War, when the women who had worked in technical jobs wanted to continue doing so, but were unable to due to a change of law that made sure that the country returned to a pre-war setting when the War was over. Hence these influential women set up the Women’s Engineering Society, and have worked since then to ensure that there is equality for women in this non-traditional sector.

Although women in engineering has certainly come a long way since then, there are still not as many women in the engineering sector as there could be, and this is clearly demonstrated by the stats; only 9% of the UK engineering workforce is female, the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe. Also, only 15.8% of engineering undergraduates are female, but industry experts predict that the overall amount of UK students studying engineering degrees will need to double to fill the skills gap. Employers feel they are being negatively affected by these stats – 64% of employers believe the shortage of engineers is a threat to their business, and 32% have difficulties in recruiting experienced STEM staff.

A key issue appears to be that almost half of young women do not even consider a career in STEM sectors, due to lacking STEM knowledge (30%), the perception that the industries are sexist (13%), and the belief that STEM careers are better suited to males (9%). An initiative to tackle the skills gap is to increase the amount of girls that consider engineering as a realistic career option. This would not only create a larger recruitment talent pool of engineers, it would also create more diversity in the engineering industry, and allow girls to know all of the careers that are available to them.

WES created National Women in Engineering Day in the hope that all groups (Governmental, educational, corporate, Professional Engineering Institutions, individuals and other organisations) would arrange their own events to support the day, and National Women In Engineering Day has certainly had this support. 2014’s key events included the Event to Celebrate Achievements of Women in Engineering organised by Glasgow University, and last year’s key events included a Guinness World Record organised by Transport for London for the most women engineers performing a jumping high five simultaneously in Horseguards Parade, and Prince Charles attending one of the NWED events.

This year will be no different, with numerous things arranged, including a breakfast networking event at IET, and the issuing of a list of the Top 50 Women in Engineering being published in the daily Telegraph today.

There are also many female engineers who support National Women In Engineering Day, including PhD Engineering student Ettie Unwin who believes that girls are not well informed about what engineering involves. Ettie thinks that it is important for all school children to have access to work experience in different industries – this will help them understand what different careers involve and dismiss the misconceptions that many have about science and engineering.

You can get involved in supporting National Women In Engineering Day too, and here at ICS we think that the more involvement the better, as we know how important engineering is for people’s everyday lives. Many workers in the engineering industry are contractors, and we’ve been helping engineering contractors with their accountancy, tax and administration since 2002. Contact us today on 0800 195 3750 or speak to us online to find out more.