Posted on June 2021 By Josh Shaw
Before I divulge my thoughts on this matter, I feel it important to address the fact that I am not a female in Engineering and, as such, my experiences and thoughts on the matter are not direct experiences. I would welcome any discussion on this topic as I firmly believe this to be one of the most important conversations for the evolution of engineering as a whole.
We had the pleasure of hosting Tiffany Dawson for a meetup around the Gender Diversity in Engineering highlighting the current problem and what can be done about it, which is a meetup that can be found HERE.
I would urge anyone reading this to watch the video as the key take way, for me, is that the strongest proponent for a shift in the status quo is when everyone understands a problem and decides to contribute to a solution. Whether in a position of legislative action, or someone starting out in their career, everyone has the power to empower.
You will see, fairly early in the talk, that the current percentages of women in Engineering is at 10.4% which is a 2% increase from 2015 and a 4% increase from 2010. At first glance this may not seem to be a huge shift but I think there is more depth to this than first meets the eye.
In 10 years of recruitment, I have never experienced such a drive toward inclusivity through working practice and education than right now, nor have I seen companies being so proactively open to change than now. What we are currently seeing is the initial progress that can be made by companies and individuals simply being more aware of a topic. I feel that this is an important step in driving any change within an organization. Exponential growth of an idea is a certainty when more people take notice and we are beginning to see this happen.
Through continuing to encourage the right behaviours and practices to work towards an inclusive workforce, this figure will only head in the right direction. What those behaviours and practices look like are pretty accessible through various sources, here is an example of a series of blogs written by Sarah Nahm (infinitely more qualified than me!) https://www.lever.co/blog/cultivating-diversity-and-inclusion-in-the-workplace-blog-series-introduction/
The second point that was raised by Tiff in her presentation that really stood out to me was that 57% of females drop out of engineering by 45 compared to 17% of males.
If you search for articles and interviews on women in technology, you will find a long list on what can be done to present Engineering as a viable career path for aspiring female engineers but, without female role models in leadership positions, there will be a constant battle to impact this figure.
What has caused this is a multitude of factors but based on studies conducted by the Harvard Business review, it appears that culture; family and lack role models are consistent reasons given by women for leaving Engineering roles. And, if any innovative figure in the history of engineering is to be believed, there must be an allowance for individualism to encourage creativity and one’s capacity to solve problems.
It has become a very interesting time in Engineering, with general working practices having changed drastically over the course of the last year and many companies across technology beginning to realise that offering staff more flexibility in the working environment can lead to better retention rates, increase in work / life balance and, as a result, a better output in creative problem solving.
I am certainly not the best person to discuss how to change your culture but I would encourage anyone reading this blog, especially those in positions of leadership, to proactively look for ways that you can impact this area of your business. There are some great articles out there that will get you started, including this one right HERE.
Through effective engagement and nurturing of talent in engineering, one would hope that more role models begin to appear. In the mean time, I can’t stress enough the importance of being a role model (regardless of gender) and taking all the steps you can to encourage inclusive workplace practices.
Ultimately, the search for complete equality of opportunity and outcome within the world of engineering still has a long way to go but we can be encouraged by the progress made so far and demonstrable impact that knowledge and sharing of ideas can have on the wider market. The most important thing is that the momentum continues to build and every person takes responsibility to be inclusive and aware of how they can positively effect change, in doing this we build greater diversity of gender and of mind which any engineering business, that believes in creativity and solving problems, should strive for.