More and more women have been taking a place at the top table of businesses for years now, but why then do women still make up only 6% of the UK’s engineering workforce – the lowest percentage in Europe?
This shockingly low figure shows just how prevalent career stereotypes remain in the UK today – especially when countries such as Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus put us to shame, with women representing around 30% of their engineering workforce.
In the UK, the energy sector is one of the biggest employers of engineers. And with this government working towards significantly expanding our nuclear and gas resources, as well as backing good-value renewable energies – we’re going to need a new wave of inspired engineers entering the workforce. So now it’s more important than ever that we leverage the skills of women in equal measure to the skills of men.
As a country we’ve got a delicate balancing task. How do we keep the lights on, keep our homes warm and continue to power the country while moving towards low carbon energy generation in the most cost effective way? Layers of bureaucracy and the promise of indefinite subsidies are not the answer - fostering research, innovation and enterprise are key. Professionals working in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are crucial to driving forward the innovation needed to affordably meet our low carbon demands.
But how can we advance when we’re missing out on half of the workforce? What we need is a shift towards a more balanced gender mix, so all talents are drawn upon to mitigate the grand global challenges of climate change.
Women are already making an impact in Parliament. And Amber Rudd and I, as Secretary of State and Minister of State for Energy, will be promoting the huge potential for women engineers in the energy sector.
Research shows that companies with more women on their boards nearly always outperform their rivals. And businesses are stronger when women are engaged at all levels – so it is in everybody’s best interests to see past the typical male engineer stereotype.
Engineering is also a vital part of the UK economy. EngineeringUK predicts that skilled engineers will be in high demand by 2022 because we currently don’t have enough future engineers in education to meet the rate of growth needed. If we filled this gap in skills, employers have the potential to add an additional £27 billion per year to the economy from 2022.
So now is the time for the next generation of girls to aim high, and help to power our economy – by working to power our country.
What is it really like working as an engineer in the UK? Here are a couple of real-life women who work as engineers in the energy sector:
- Jasdeep Sahota, Chemical Engineers at Sellafield Ltd.
- Caroline Gutridge, Design Manager and Senior Project Engineer at RES (a wind farm developer).
- Alice Delahunty, Electrical Engineer Project Coordinator at E.ON.
- Louise Kingham, OBE, Chief Executive of the Energy Institute.