Collaborative Post

The rise of women taking up careers in engineering


While only 13% of engineers are female, this is a vast improvement on previous years. Women are being encouraged to pursue careers in the engineering sector like never before, but there is still a long way to go.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash
Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

At the moment, around 20% of all engineering qualifications are awarded to women, but only 13% of the engineering workforce are female. There is clearly a disconnect between women training to be engineers and then taking roles as engineers. Perhaps even more worrying is the low percentage of female representation in engineering education.

While it might look bleak now, it is far better than it has ever been in the past. In 1960, women made up just 1% of all engineers. By 2011, this had increased to 11%. And today, the number is around 13%. While this does show progress, there is clearly a long way to go.

The importance of women in engineering

Engineering is everywhere and shapes so much of our lives. If women are excluded from the design process, the needs of a large portion of the population might not be met. Women understand the world in a different way. They have different priorities. And when this vision and prioritisation is allowed to take centre stage in engineering decisions, the results are vastly different. Representation at this level is essential for equality across all of society.

You can’t be what you can’t see

If young girls don’t see women in engineering, then they will never aspire to enter this profession. This is why organisations like RISE and the Women’s Engineering Society are working to promote women in the professional. Through conferences, awards and professional mentorship programmes, they are working hard to make women in engineering more visible. Championing women engineers has never been more important for the future of the profession.

Engineering educational experiences

Encouraging more young girls to study STEM subjects is clearly the best way to ensure greater equality in the future. We’re seeing more young girls choose STEM subjects at a younger age, and having more equality in the classroom should help to engineer a world where women feel welcome, included and valued in the profession. 

When given the opportunity, women outperform their male counterparts in education. Did you know that 79.8% of female engineering students achieve a first or upper second class honours degree, compared to 74.6% of male students?

Recruitment trends

Changes in attitudes towards work are helping to fuel greater equality in the workplace. It’s not only women with childcare responsibilities who are interested in flexible working and atypical working hours anymore. As there is a greater interest in gaining a better work-life balance, this makes it easier for women to request these arrangements if they decide to start a family. 

Employers can no longer make it a female issue; it’s an employee issue that impacts everyone. Engineering management recruitment agencies note that more young people entering the workforce are looking for more than just a good salary and benefits. They want to know that their life outside of work will be respected.

Pay equality and transparency

Across most sectors, women earn more than men, but the gap is closing. With workers being more transparent about their pay, it’s becoming easier for women to call out when they aren’t being treated fairly. 

In general, female engineers earn around 11% less than their male counterparts. This isn’t ideal, but it also isn’t as severe as the aviation industry where female pilots earn 26.6% less than their male counterparts. First, we need transparency so that pay gaps have nowhere to hide.