Editor’s comment: Progress – but not enough...

03 July 2022

MG EPDT editorial_INWED22
MG EPDT editorial_INWED22

With women still hugely under-represented in engineering, INWED (International Women in Engineering Day) continues to play a vital role in raising the profile of women in engineering – helping encourage more young women & girls to take up engineering careers. Despite progress in the last decade, engineering remains an overwhelmingly male-dominated field…

A version of this editorial leader was originally featured in the July 2022 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.

I write this column in the run-up to the 9th annual International Women in Engineering Day, on June 23rd (#INWED22). INWED was founded as National Women in Engineering Day by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to mark its 95th anniversary in 2014, before receiving UNESCO patronage in 2016, and then going global in 2017 after intense interest & enthusiasm from a wider international audience during those first few years.

With women still hugely under-represented in engineering, INWED plays a vital role in raising the profile of women in engineering – helping to encourage more young women & girls to take up engineering careers.

INWED2022-ImagineTheFuture
INWED2022-ImagineTheFuture

And that role remains as vital as ever: despite some progress in the last decade, engineering remains an overwhelmingly male-dominated field. In March 2022, EngineeringUK published its latest “Women in Engineering” briefing (download it at: www.engineeringuk.com/women), summarising how the gender composition of the UK engineering workforce has changed over the last 11 years, from 2010 to 2021. The analysis was based on data from the ONS Labour Force Survey (a continuous household study run by the Office of National Statistics), using the ‘engineering footprint’ – a list of SOC (standard occupational classification) and SIC (standard industrial classification) codes agreed between EngineeringUK, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Engineering Council to constitute ‘engineering’.

The report’s key finding was that while the percentage and absolute number of women in engineering has increased over this period, these gains have been concentrated in particular roles and industries, with women more likely to be in related – rather than core – engineering roles, and working in industries outside of what is traditionally deemed to be the ‘engineering sector’.

Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT
Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT

Analysis of the data between 2010 and 2021 shows a 6 percentage point increase in the proportion of women in the engineering workforce. In 2010, just over 1 in 10 (10.5%) of those working in engineering roles were women; by 2021, this had risen to 16.5%. In terms of absolute numbers, this represents an increase from 562,000 women working in engineering roles in 2010 to 936,000 in 2021. This rise has coincided with an overall expansion of the engineering workforce from 5.3 million workers in 2010 to 5.6 million in 2021. However, rates of change (in terms of gender balance) are higher at associate and technical professional levels than at managerial, director and senior official level.

This year’s INWED theme is ‘inventors and innovators’, celebrating the amazing work that women engineers around the world are doing to support lives and livelihoods every day. #INWED22 will look towards the future, profiling the best, brightest and bravest women in engineering, the inventors and innovators who are addressing the grand challenges that we face across the world – those who dare to be part of the solution and help to build towards a brighter future, using engineering and technology to improve everyday life and the world around us.

A live webcast on INWED will showcase some of these inventors and innovators – as well as announcing the WE50, an annual list, in association with The Guardian newspaper, of the year’s Top 50 Women in Engineering. In keeping with the theme, this year’s #WE50 celebrates the inventors and innovators who #ImagineTheFuture, the amazing women in engineering who identify an unmet need, then create the solution, or improve on existing products and processes to make our lives easier (as well as those who have supported other women in engineering to do the same).

I'm supporting #INWED22
I'm supporting #INWED22

I strongly encourage you to go back and watch the webcast on demand (at: www.inwed.org.uk) and check out the #WE50 list of winners (at: www.wes.org.uk/WE50) – like in previous years, its sure to be inspirational stuff. It’s encouraging to know that there has been some progress in the past decade – but there is still a long way to go before women are properly represented in engineering! Redressing that balance is vital, not only to helping address the STEM skills gap and recruitment shortfalls across industry, but also to ensuring the valuable perspective of half the population is adequately reflected throughout the engineering lifecycle.

EPDT's July 2022 issue also contains features on Electromechanical technologies and Military & Aerospace applications, plus the latest edition of EPDT's twice-yearly Electronics Distribution supplement. Read more on what's inside EPDT this month

EPDT July 2022 cover image
EPDT July 2022 cover image

Mark Gradwell

Editor


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