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Charlotte Coe, Head of Engineering and Technical Recruitment at Derby-based Syntax Consultancy

  • Date: 09/09/2011
  • Category: General

“Women are still vastly under-represented in the engineering and manufacturing industries, an imbalance that both baffles and saddens me.

I have worked within the engineering sector for over 20 years heading up a predominantly female team of consultants. More recently, it can be agreed, that although there has been a notable increase in the number of women in industry, a huge gender imbalance is still evident everywhere.

Shop floors, design offices, quality departments and senior management committees are still markedly male. Which begs the question, where are the women? 

Statistics show:

  • In 2008, nearly 13,000,000 women were working in the UK – of these, only 5.3 per cent were in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) occupations
  • Of 15,400,000 men in employment in 2008, a third worked in SET
  • Women represent 15.5 per cent of SET professionals in the UK
  • Of 5,497,072 people working in SET occupations (including skilled trades) in the UK in 2008, only 12.3 per cent were women.
  • Among 468,580 engineering professionals, only 6.9 per cent were women (32,106).
  • Among 457,636 ICT professionals, only 14.4 per cent were women (66,076).
  • In 2008 women accounted for only 5.2 per cent of SET-based self employment

With increasing success in Maths and Science at GCSE level, this imbalance is baffling, it seems to me girls are being led to believe, wrongly, that a career in engineering is dirty or dull, instead opting for the ‘vibrancy’ and ‘chic’ of a job in PR or Marketing which, statistics show, is a largely female marketplace.

Women into Science, Engineering and Construction (WISE) is a body that works with industry and education to inspire girls and attract them into  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) studies and careers.

When girls avoid subjects like Physics, Engineering, Construction and IT, it means that some of the brightest minds and best skills are lost to these employment sectors.

WISE works in partnership with industry and education, bringing the perspective of girls to their activities. Most girls cannot be influenced into non-traditional careers through one glossy leaflet at age 14!

WISE engages their hearts, minds and needs and looks at the long term, to counter the widespread stereotypes many experience from their peers and parents, schools and the media.

They do this by listening to girls and ensuring organizations and policy-makers hear their voices. They work with delivery agencies, offering models, tools and ideas to help them challenge traditional approaches and demonstrate equal involvement for girls.

Syntax is also committed to working at grass roots level to demonstrate the career opportunities in engineering open to girls and are attending various open days at schools in the coming months to encourage GCSE and A level students to consider this when choosing their subjects for the next stage in their education.

For my part, a career in Engineering is one of the most diverse and exciting attainable, and had I been shown many of the manufacturing sites I’ve been involved with, at 6th form level, my chosen career would have undoubtedly been different.

My role supplying staff into this sector is enjoyable, but it saddens me that girls will be put off by an out-dated idea that engineering is a ‘mans-work’ and never know the exhilaration of this ever-evolving industry.

The variety of jobs in engineering is enormous and every member of an engineering team will bring their own expertise, whether practical, technical or creative.  Great opportunities face today’s engineers because of rapidly changing technology.

Engineering graduates can earn up to £2,500 more than their peers not long after graduation. They are also more likely, in comparison with graduates in other subjects, to find employment soon after graduation and in their preferred area of work.  

Everyone involved in this flourishing industry therefore needs to work together to address the gender imbalance and encourage more women and girls into SET careers to ensure we do not overlook the young talent that is out there – whoever they are.”


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Sarah Jenkin-Jones, JJPR, Tel: 01332 515102/07951 945 665;

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