How Can Employers Encourage More Women Applicants?

More female Engineers and computer programmers are needed throughout the world, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

According to its Science Report “Towards 2030”, women are increasingly graduating with life science degrees but are still rare in Engineering.

One statistic from The Women’s Engineering Society report states 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%.

To build a sustainable and resilient skill pool for future workforces, and to keep pace with innovation and technological advances, this is an issue that no employer can afford to overlook.

Evidence suggests that though employers in Renewable Energy and the Building Services sectors strive to meet the requirements of equality legislation, there are still not enough women attracted to the career paths they offer or advancing to management once they are recruited.

Is education to blame?

This could well start right back at education. Do young women still get “turned off” science, technology, Engineering and Mathematics at an early age? Is it teachers, lecturers and careers advisors who need to change their attitudes?

Programmes that bring industry and academia together are an important part of the process of nurturing and supporting the right skill sets and expectations amongst the brightest and best. They can also help to expose more women to the opportunities presented by the Engineering sectors – killing some of the myths that still prevail.

Killing the myths and misconceptions

An important factor is a lingering misconception that “Engineers” are people who work on machinery, wear overalls and have dirty hands! So, perhaps the problems start in defining what Engineering actually means as it covers a very diverse range of jobs.

It’s another reason why employers need to support education-based programmes, to show first-hand the varied and dynamic nature of Engineering jobs. And firms within the Renewable Energy and the Building Services Sectors who offer work placement programmes are to be applauded, as they are helping to break down the myths and stimulate a passion for the profession.

As much as possible, employers need to trumpet the achievements of all their Engineering staff. They need to show clearly that their work is developing theories, mechanisms and designs which impact not only on their employer’s business but on the world of industry in general, and in some cases, will impact on the future of our planet.

By taking the time to showcase what Engineers accomplish, employers can ensure that women begin to appreciate that there is nothing “mechanical” about this profession – it is for innovators, problem solvers, visionaries and free thinkers.

Women role models in Engineering

Relevant industries need to invest in projecting as many role models as possible, women who daily show the innovation, imagination and social skills required to meet the demands of energy jobs, building services jobs, Engineering jobs and mechanical Engineering jobs.

One of the most outspoken industry representatives on this topic is Dorothy Thompson, chief executive of Drax group and therefore the UK’s largest power station. She has pointed out that every employer needs to be more proactive in killing the myths and exposing the values of Engineering jobs.

What else can be done?

EDF, the company constructing the UK’s first new nuclear power station for 20 years, has a cinema ad campaigning which shows young women how inclusive and attractive energy jobs are.

The IEEE has formed the Power & Energy Society Women in Power campaign, to “foster a more diverse leadership by supporting the career advancement, networking and education of women in the energy industry” (http://www.pes-women-in-power.org/).

Is all this enough? Do you feel more needs to be done to address gender imbalance and career misconceptions in the Renewable Energy and the Building Services sectors?  What is your company doing, what are your thoughts on what more the industry can be doing?