International Women in Engineering Day was celebrated across the globe on 23rd June. Launched by the Women's Engineering Society, who have been supporting women in engineering for 102 years, this day aims to raise the profile of women engineers and encourage more people to consider engineering as a profession for all.
Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce has over 750 members, many of whom are engineering companies, and we were proud to celebrate this day with them and their engineering heroes. It is an important event which helps to support and encourage women, the education and study of engineering, and work with organisations and influencers to promote gender diversity and equality in the workplace.
Bedfordshire Chamber understands the career path women in engineering need to navigate and the many challenges that stand in their way. From early gender stereotypes, powerful social factors which lead many girls and women to turn away from engineering as a subject choice at school, and later a career option, through to glass ceilings and gender inequality in some workplaces – becoming a female engineer is not always plain sailing. Whilst thankfully these challenges are rarer now than in the recent past, some still remain and can be evidenced in the statistics.
The Women’s Engineering Society reports that only 12.6% of all engineers in the UK are women. Indeed, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, at less than 10%, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30%. In the US, the number of male engineers currently employed substantially outnumbers the number of women engineers.
So there is still some way to go. However, change is afoot and through initiatives such as International Women in Engineering Day, there are now over 50,000 women in professional engineering roles – which is almost twice the amount than just a decade ago.
Workforce development is a key focus for the Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce, examining the barriers and opportunities for workplace training and development for all adults, regardless of gender. Diversity, equity and inclusion are key to long-term growth and sustainability for all organisations.
As Justin Richardson, CEO of Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce, explains: “What is needed here in the engineering sector is environments that are receptive to the idea that female engineering talent exists, that it is worth nurturing, and that engineering, and indeed the wider field of science, has no gender. With this shift in mindset significant change is possible. I am proud that so many of our members are inclusive and forward-thinking companies who embrace talent from every pool and I look forward to a future where we have moved away from the challenges of being a woman engineer to just simply the challenges of being an engineer.”