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International Women in Engineering Day 2019 - #TransformTheFuture

21/06/19 Laura Preston - CertRP Principal Consultant, Contract & Interim

Tomorrow is International Women in Engineering Day which is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls and women in this exciting industry. This year, as well as celebrating the sixth INWED, the UK is also celebrating 100 years of the Women's Engineering Society (WES).

The Women's Engineering Society is a charity and a professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration, support and professional development.

Working in partnership, they support and inspire women to achieve as engineers, scientists and as leaders; encourage the education of engineering; and support companies with gender diversity and inclusion.

The state of the industry

The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe. As it stands, this figure isn’t set to rise any time soon. It’s estimated that less than eight per cent of engineering and manufacturing apprentices are female. The UK requires to significantly increase its number of engineers. The STEM skills shortage is costing businesses £1.5bn in recruitment every year. For the engineering sector to reduce its skills shortage, it needs to employ around 186,000 recruits each year until 2024.

Engineers are the creative problem solvers, mathematicians and physicists; full of new ideas and the know-how to implement them, creating new or improved solutions to everyday problems. While statistics from the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) found that 64 per cent of employers highlighted a shortage of engineers in the UK as a threat to their business, just 9 per cent of the UK engineering workforce is female. Hence, attracting, retaining and promoting women into engineering is not only essential to increase diversity but also vital for the future sustainability of the engineering and high-tech industry.

Importantly, utilising the talents of women and rewarding their contribution across sectors and occupations in the workforce will benefit the UK economy as a whole. In fact, it has been estimated that if the country’s gender gap were to be closed, this could potentially generate an additional £150 billion to gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

Some technology companies are already taking the lead and have publicised gender diversity targets include Xerox, SAP, Schneider Electric and BAE Systems.

We must not forget that women inventors, scientists, and engineers have discovered countless revolutionary and life-changing inventions that have caused unprecedented breakthroughs in the history of the engineering world. Laura Preston, Redline’s Principal Consultant looks at how women have inspired the world of technology and engineering.

Heating Systems

There were systems for distributing heat around the home back in Roman times, but a forgotten African American woman came up with the system that bears most similarity to modern central heating systems. Almost nothing is known about Alice Parker, bar the patent she was granted in 1919 which describes a technically complex and intricate gas-powered heating system for the home.

Rocket Science

Yvonne Madelaine Claeys Brill was a Canadian-born American aerospace engineer rocket scientist who pioneered the electrothermal hydrazine thruster. She invented the propulsion system that keeps communication satellites from falling out of orbit. During her lifetime, Yvonne C. Brill contributed to the propulsion systems of TIROS, the first weather satellite; Nova, a series of rocket designs that were used in American moon missions; Explorer 32, the first upper-atmosphere satellite; and the Mars Observer, which in 1992 almost entered a Mars orbit before losing communication with Earth.

Computer Software

After joining the US Navy during the Second World War, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was assigned to work on a new computer, called the Mark 1. It wasn't long before she was at the forefront of computer programming in the 1950s. She was behind the compiler, which could translate instructions into code that computers can read, making programming quicker and ultimately revolutionising how computers worked. Hopper also helped popularise the term "debugging" that we still use when developing computers programmes today. "Amazing Grace", as she was known, continued working with computers until she retired from the navy as its oldest serving officer, aged 79.

Computer Programming

In the mid-1800s Ada Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage to translate the functions of his ‘Analytical Engine’. Sound cryptic? Many people still think so, as Lovelace’s work described how the analytical engine worked using algorithms to generate Bernoulli numbers. Without Lovelace’s work almost 180 years ago, apps and websites of today wouldn’t work.

WiFi

WiFi has quite literally changed the way the world works in the last few years. However, without big screen Hollywood actress, and co-creator of a spread-spectrum radio during World War 1, Hedy Lamarr, this wouldn’t be a possibility. The spread-spectrum radio was designed to accurately guide torpedoes via an un-jammable radio signal. Today’s WiFi uses direct spread spectrum transmission in the 2.4GHz band.

Medical Electronics

Sadef Monajemi has created software that, with the use of artificial intelligence, can help medical professionals to predict strokes in at-risk patients without having to spend vast amounts of money on extensive tests and investigations. It’s still early days, but the project is already seeing substantial backing from investors.

With the engineering industry facing an on-going skills shortage, the need to find new ways to attract and retain female talent within the sector is of increasing importance. “To inspire the future, we should reflect on the past," says Laura. McKinsey's report ‘Delivering through diversity’ - a lack of role models is often cited as a reason why women shy away from a career in the engineering and high-tech industry. However, the reality is that our engineering heroines are often unsung. The report also states that many companies struggle to increase the representation of diverse talent and create truly inclusive organisational cultures to profit from diversity.

Promoting an inclusive policy and achieving gender balance is not just the right thing to do, it’s good for business. There is clear evidence that companies with women in their workforce from engineering and technical jobs, to engineering management jobs, outperform their competition. 

Laura comments: "If your business is seeking to improve gender equality then download the full REC report The role of good recruitmentin gender diversity. The report is a how-to guide on embracing best practice and promoting gender equality in the workplace."

HR professionals and recruiters are in a unique position to help eradicate the gender gap in employment. Good recruitment is the foundation upon which fair and gender-balanced organisations are built.

To find out more about high tech and electronics jobs, contact Laura Preston on 01582 878823 or email LPreston@RedlineGroup.com