Women in engineering

2 min read

Last week saw Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg as the newest member of the female billionaires club. More and more women are making it to the top of leading global technology companies such as Cher Wang, Cofounder and Chairperson of HTC, Virginia Rometty, President and CEO of IBM and Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo to name a few.

So why was it when I recently attended the Scotland IS event Technology Trends 2014 my first reaction when entering the room was, why so few women?! The problem seems to stem from schools, where cultural stereotypes stop girls from excelling in mathematics and physics. Gender misconceptions of what subjects should be studied by boys makes girls who want to study these subjects nervous and anxious to do so, with only a fifth of girls who get an A* at Physics GCSE going on to do the subject at A level, compared with half of boys. Studies also showed that in single-sex schools, more girls go on to study physics to A-level. Without the cultural stereotypes in single sex schools, girls feel more confident to go on and study mathematics and physics. The problems still manifests at university level, however, where only 17% of engineering students are female with this resulting in only 8% actually pursuing the engineering profession. Compare this with Sweden where 25% of professional engineers are female and 20% in France, Italy and Norway. Careers in software development and computer science are now listed as the highest paying and most in demand careers, so why is it this industry is seemingly not open to 50% of its potential talent pool? The fear is that if, as a society/industry we choose to only consider half our talent pool, we will quickly be overtaken by those societies which are encouraging more of their skilled individuals into the industry rather than allowing them to be trained up and utilised in other industries which are seemingly more suitable to women. We will be all the poorer for it if we continue to let that happen! As a leading IT recruitment consultancy, Enigma People Solutions is passionate about increasing the number of women in technology because we know all too well that in order to stay ahead as an industry we need to nurture the skills and talent from an early age and consider the brightest minds coming out of our education system. The problem is that this has been a consistent topic for years and whilst some if not many men are clearly holding open the doors even women seem to be at a loss as to how to encourage girls and young women into engineering. In a recent article for The Telegraph, Dame Ann Dowling, the first female president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, discusses the lack of fellow women in the industry, stating the profession is perfect for girls. If she herself is 'baffled' as to why we don't have better representation of women in engineering then we really may be in trouble! There is no doubt that the tech industry has been growing, with 39,900 jobs added between January and September 2013, and a massive 60% of these positions going to women. This is fantastic news for women in tech, however still only represents a fraction of what can be achieved if more women were to embrace the industry. What we need to see is more women entering product design for software and electronics in the UK. Let's at least catch up with and improve on the representation that we see in countries like Sweden and Norway. Tell us your thoughts, how can we encourage more women into engineering? Anndeep Sandhu is a marketing executive with Enigma People Solutions.