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Future of Manufacturing Q1 2022

How we can achieve full equality, diversity and inclusion in engineering

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Dr Hilary Leevers

Chief Executive Officer, Engineering UK

We need to examine the barriers that are still preventing women from taking up engineering roles as well as increasing representation of different groups across the sector.

The latest data analysed by EngineeringUK shows an increase in women working in engineering roles of almost 370,000 in 2021 compared with 2010. While this growth is to be celebrated, women still only make up 16.5% of the workforce. The low rate of increase, of just six percentage points since 2010, is problematic, as well as the huge underrepresentation of women.

Representation needed for progress

Our latest report finds differences by industry and sector, with women making up only 12.5% of those working in engineering jobs (core or related) within the engineering sector, compared to 24.4% outside of the sector. Forthcoming analyses examine the participation of people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds as well as those from different socio-economic backgrounds and people with disabilities.

The engineering and technology workforce will be critical to addressing the UK’s greatest challenges including levelling-up, revitalising the economy and meeting net zero. It is going to be incredibly tough to meet these ambitions unless we have the most creative and effective workforce, which requires representation from all sorts of people for a true breadth of diversity of thought and experience. We also need the sheer numbers that equality would bring. For instance, if women participated in engineering at the same rate as they do in other roles, this would swell the current workforce by 1.8 million.

Understanding barriers to sector

We hope our analyses stimulate more exploration of how we can pick up the pace of change. We need to learn why women are more likely to work in engineering outside of the engineering sector than in it and how some areas are attracting women faster than others.

We must ensure that engineering is a career choice that attracts the next generation, retains those working in engineering and that we respond to the needs of women who have left engineering and actively bring them back.

Committing to common goals

Sharing insights and working collaboratively will be vital. The Tomorrow’s Engineers Code, which EngineeringUK manages on behalf of the community, aims to do just that. Signatories of the Code, such as Make UK, commit to working towards the common goals of increasing the diversity and number of young people entering engineering. Organisations are supported to improve through free resources on the Tomorrow’s Engineers website

I am optimistic that by learning and working together, we can quicken the pace of change to achieve the diverse and insightful workforce needed for the UK to thrive.

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