Engineering a way to smash the glass ceiling
31 July 2012
Engineering and manufacturing employers urged to support women in the workplace-
With the deadline for applications to the 2012 Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award today (30 July), Sector Skills Council Semta is advising engineering and manufacturing employers to encourage more women to join their workforces.
Currently, while women form around half of the UK labour market, only a fifth (21 per cent) of the engineering and manufacturing workforce is female. And, according to the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (UKRC), the UK has the lowest proportion (9%) of female engineering professionals across the EU states.
Said Susan Evans, Business Development Director at Semta, and a mechanical engineer who began her career with the European space company, EADS Astrium: “Women in the rest of Europe are engineers so we need to help the UK overcome its stark gender disparity and smash any glass ceilings.
“Manufacturing and engineering businesses need 82,000 new engineers, scientists and technicians between now and 2016. Women represent a great untapped resource at a time when we need a wealth of new talent and higher level skills to improve competitiveness.
“The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) awards recognise the brilliant talent displayed by women in engineering and manufacturing careers. It is essential that businesses nurture their female employees to encourage them to reach their potential and stay in the industry. In doing so, we believe more women will be encouraged to consider a career in these economically important, wealth producing sectors.”
To support businesses in tackling the gender mismatch, Semta offers a Career Advancement and Progression Programme across the UK, backed by a nationally recognised qualification from awarding organisation EAL.
To date, around 1,300 women in leading engineering companies, such as BAE Systems, Atkins and Airbus, have benefitted from the programme, with well over half reporting they have taken on more responsibility (58 per cent) while a fifth of participants (18 per cent) moved to a new role. The vast majority of participating women (88 per cent) said they have more confidence and self-belief since completing the programme.
Caroline Brown, international business head (nuclear) at global engineering consultancy Atkins, said: “Being able to discuss issues specific to women was very valuable. In particular, the workshops helped us realise opportunities available to us by looking at the positive differences between men and women in the workplace.”
The programme supports women in analysing their current position and helps them identify individual objectives for future progression. In addition to equipping participants with the skills and confidence to tackle specific gender behaviour traits, the qualification also helps businesses understand possible organisational barriers for their female employees.
Susan Evans concluded: “The Career Advancement and Progression Programme is a huge step forward but there is still more to be done. Working with the businesses in our sectors, we can improve female perceptions of, and accessibility to careers in engineering and manufacturing, making the Young Female Engineering Award winner a deserved inspiration to women everywhere.”
The Women and Work Commission estimates that removing barriers to women working in occupations traditionally done by men, and increasing women’s participation in the labour market, could be worth up to £23 billion per year.
The deadline for submissions to the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year award is 30 July 2012. The winner will be announced at a ceremony due to take place on 6 December 2012.
Companies interested in finding out how the Career Advancement and Progression Programme can help their business should visit www.semta.org.uk/advance