Women engineers needed across the globe
Recent years have seen many organisations around the world launch campaigns and initiatives aimed at increasing the number of women entering engineering. Yet, still more women are needed the world over - many more! Women with strong mathematical capability and innovative problem-solving skills. Women who can lead, project manage, control risk, communicate and confidently work in teams.
Choosing the right subjects early on
Many organisations across the world have undertaken activity to promote the sector to girls in schools, encouraging them to choose the right subjects early on and to understand the exciting and rewarding career opportunities available to them.
At infrastructure services firm AECOM around one-third of graduates are female - a high proportion for the industry. The graduates are exposed to excellent training, exciting challenges and remarkable career opportunities. The engineering sector provides a very fast-paced and dynamic career pathway.
AECOM as an international company designs, builds, finances and operates the world’s infrastructure - whether serving clients during one phase of a project lifecycle or throughout a project's entirety. Their impressive people apply creative vision, technical expertise, interdisciplinary insight and local experience to address complex challenges in new and better ways. They fundamentally help clients deliver critical resources and services, improve places where people live and work, and sustain a world in which everyone can flourish.
Not enough women are choosing engineering
But with not enough women entering the engineering profession, coupled with an ageing workforce whereby many experienced engineers are approaching retirement, a global talent shortage presents huge issues for the sector as a whole. Engineering, as with many sectors, is swiftly having to work on eroding the unconscious bias that discriminates against women’s success. “In order to create a great place to work, we all need to play our part in building a diverse workforce. This means understanding the prejudices we may hold ourselves and finding all possible ways to develop ourselves and the environment around us, to be the most inclusive it can be,” explains Chief Executive of Continental Europe for AECOM, David Whitehouse.
A flexible working culture is key
Creating a flexible working environment is also a key necessity for attracting more women into the sector believes Dr Birgit Guhse, AECOM’s Country Manager for Germany, Austria, Switzerland. “The way people work has evolved significantly in the last decade, with technology meaning that people can adapt where and when they work to meet their personal needs, as well as those of their employer.”
Engineering is a very exciting and important sector. "As an engineer, you could be working in the office one day and on site the next, designing bridges, ports and railways, or even the iconic skyscrapers of the future," suggests AECOM HR director Charlie Weatherhogg. "Engineers working at AECOM have worked on some of the nation’s highest profile engineering projects, ranging from the London Olympic Park to The Shard, Crossrail and HS2."
Targeted STEM campaigns are needed
One way to openly encourage and make visible the opportunities to women within the sector is through targeted campaigns such as The Institute of Engineering and Technology's (IET) annual Young Woman of the Year award in the UK of which Where Women Work has been a supportive partner for many years. Recent success with initiatives like the UK's National Women in Engineering Day and the highly popular #ILookLikeAnEngineer social media campaign are helpful in raising awareness and helping shift the dial through increasing interest and action. Mentoring programmes across companies are also very useful via the support, education and opportunity they provide. Ongoing collaboration between businesses and schools is also needed in order to tackle the problem and sustain better outcomes.
More women needed on selection panels
Recruiting more women into the engineering sector also requires women to be included on selection panels, as well as clearly on the shortlists. All forms of bias or prejudiced thinking must also be challenged to ensure there is no discrimination or non-inclusive behaviours that prevent women from securing opportunities.
So there is still much work to do in opening children’s minds to the exciting possibilities of engineering, and to ensuring women are present in suitable numbers at all levels. Taking science, technology and mathematics (STEM) jobs to women rather than expecting them to randomly find the roles, is absolutely key. The engineering field must be widened if this same conversation is not still to be had in the decades to come.