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How can businesses help bridge the gender gap in engineering

Redline Group, one UK’s most trusted Electronics and High Technology recruitment specialists, launch new research on “How to Close the Gender Gap: Women in Engineering & Technology”.

According to Engineering UK, women make up 16.5% of all engineers, which is a considerable increase from the 10.5% reported in 2010. The number of women working in engineering roles increased from 562,000 in 2010 to 936,000 in 2021, highlighting growth in the number of women entering the tech industry. However, studies show that, despite this undeniable growth, there is still a lack of support for women in the engineering and high-tech sectors. 

Though a lot of the engineering and tech industry is aimed at men, there are programmes and organisations that are purposely aimed at women, such as;

  • Girls who code
  • STEMettes 

Issues Faced by Women in STEM:

The research highlights issues women in engineering and tech face before and after joining the sector, including:

  • Getting Girls into STEM:

Only 25% of girls aged 16-18 would consider a career in engineering compared to 52% of boys. One of the main ways to empower women engineers is to make it easier for them to break into the industry in the first place, which starts with school and education. As a business, it’s important to understand the part education plays in a woman’s engineering journey.

Without learning opportunities from a young age, it’s unlikely that girls will discover a talent or interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

  • Skills Gap:

Studies show that with fewer training opportunities available, many women find themselves unintentionally falling behind. Offering upskilling and training helps diversify the workforce, which brings with it a greater range of ideas and opinions, some of which are sure to turn into an innovation.

  • Hiring Biases:

Numerous studies show that hiring bias exists, which leads to decreased rates of satisfaction, and retention. It’s not always intentional but some hiring managers may find themselves subconsciously drawn to male candidates. It’s not uncommon for a woman's application to be overlooked simply because she is a woman, despite having the same skills and experience as men who are given the job.

A new study has also analysed a dataset of 11.2 million digital adverts and found the wording of job postings across most STEM industries and occupations in the UK to be biased toward traits and social-psychological cues that are masculine and are likely to attract male job applicants whilst deterring female candidates.

Besides this, the recent shift to remote and hybrid work has created a “visibility” concern for many employees. Proximity bias describes how people in positions of power tend to treat employees who are physically closer to them more favourably and arises from the antiquated assumption that those who work remotely are less productive than those who work from the office. As it’s often women who need to work from home to manage childcare or family responsibilities, they often suffer the consequences of such bias.

  • Pay disparity:

Women have often been socially conditioned from a young age to take on more caring roles, which often means that they don't have as much time to invest in their careers. The lack of investment in their engineering and technology careers translates into lower wages and fewer opportunities for promotion or raises.

Besides this, choices made by boys and girls about their academic careers from GCSE through to university influence the jobs they enter after graduation. Some types of jobs are paid more than others, and men are more likely to go into higher-paid work than women because of the academic choices they have made earlier in life.

The UK labour market remains highly divided with sectors dominated by women tending to be the lowest paid and 69% of the UK’s part-time workers being women.

But what can businesses do to help?

A lot of businesses make the mistake of assuming that empowering women engineers means providing adequate parental leave or ensuring women are paid fairly and while these are essential steps to be taken, it goes a long way beyond that.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sponsorships, Apprenticeships, Networking Events:

Though a lot of the engineering and tech industry is aimed at men, some programmes and organisations are purposely aimed at women. These have been created to support, inspire, and equip women with everything they need to build a successful career in the engineering and technology sectors.

  • Mentorship:

Research has shown that appropriate mentoring is a mechanism proven to recruit and retain more women in engineering. The value of mentorship is irreplaceable. Not only does mentoring provide information, guidance to teach techniques, and advice when it’s needed most, but it also creates a supportive community of individuals, all of which are working together to empower women in a largely male dominated industry.

  • Business Support:

Women engineers often require different support compared to their male counterparts, and this is something that a lot of businesses are starting to offer. One way to help is by offering upskilling and training opportunities, as many female engineers are being held back by a lack of skills and experience. Women tend to suffer from ‘brain drain’ when trying to juggle work life and home life, and this leads to them deciding to no longer pursue a senior-level position. To combat this, businesses can empower them by offering flexible work arrangements, which allow for remote hours and flexible solutions to achieve a work/life balance.

  • Pay Transparency:

According to BCSWomen, women are often discouraged from entering the IT industry as they know that they will not earn as much as a man working in the same role. This is why there needs to be greater transparency of pay within STEM, as this will help women build a strong career alongside their male counterparts, without being held back by lower wages.

Future Outlook:

Things are changing for the better, and everyone can help the change by encouraging women to work in the engineering and technology sector and supporting them once they’re hired. Research by McKinsey found companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. So, if you foster a female-friendly environment, the likelihood that you will encourage women to become employees is much greater and this will have a direct impact on helping your company reach greater heights of success.

View our report, How to Close the Gender Gap: Women in Engineering & Technology.

Natalie Tyler, Associate Director at Redline Group comments, “Despite notable advances in technology, the labour market in the 21st century remains unequal. Women engineers face many hurdles that their male counterparts never experience. The challenges lie in figuring out what is most important to a business - and then devising a comprehensive offering that meets those needs.

Therefore, it’s important for businesses to empower women engineers, and to ensure that women are given the same if not greater support and opportunities as men in the engineering and technology sector. The old ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach does not work in today’s competitive labour market.”

Redline has over four decades of knowledge-led recruitment experience, we enable high technology and electronics companies to build world-class diverse teams. For more information on how we can help, contact us 01582 450054 or email for a quick chat with our team.


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