January 28, 2023

Women in engineering: Encouraging signs of growth


A team of engineers in Baltimore, Maryland — on the east coast of the United States — will monitor the James Webb Space Telescope as it enters orbit and unfurls. — © AFP

Many attempts are made to increase the participation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields and here are signs of success in many areas, from life sciences to coding. Another area of success is with engineering, where there are signs of increased workforce participation.

There are encouraging signs in relation to the next generation to enter the workforce as well. The same survey finds that engineering is highly regarded by STEM secondary school teachers and parents. In addition, more young people would consider a career in engineering compared with other occupations.

An historic reason for lower female participation in engineering fields has been with the prevalence of values associated with the male gender role in workplace culture. This has been gradually challenged and this has helped to make engineering more attractive to female students.

According to Engineering UK, the number of women in engineering has risen by nearly 26 percent (since 2016). In addition, women currently make up 14.5 percent of all engineers and the number of women working in engineering occupations has risen from 721,586 to 906,785 in across three years. This is an increase of 185,199 women in engineering occupations between 2016 and Q3 2020.

With women in engineering on the rise, the company Toolstation has looked back at the women of past and present who have paved the way for the future of engineering. The objective here is to inspire more women to entering the engineering space.

Two more recent female innovators are Marisaa Mayer – the first woman engineer to join Google, and first woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company (Yahoo!); and Roma Agrawal – one of the masterminds behind The Shard building in London.

Despite many historical advancements, the data shows the gender pay gap remains considerable within engineering industries. By looking at key trade industries such as electricity and energy supply, architecture and engineering, construction, and scientific research and development, Toolstation has found the pay gap between men and women to still be present.

The outcome is:

Profession Male avg. earnings 2021 (£) Female avg. earnings 2021 (£) Extra amount paid to men per year (Gender pay gap)
Electricity and energy supply £49,672 £34,544 £15,128
Architecture and engineering £44,544 £30,711 £13,833
Construction £39,235 £26,847 £12,388
Scientific research and development £49,329 £38,725 £10,604

The electricity and energy sector that sees the biggest gender pay gap.

International Women in Engineering Day, organized by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), will celebrate its 9th year in 2022 (on 23rd June 2022).