“Women in Engineering” movement is gaining momentum. The barriers for women working in engineering are falling, so where would you work if you had the opportunity? Women have typically been offered very limited paths into engineering.
While 20% of engineering qualifications are awarded to women, they make up just 13% of the workforce. For more women to want to go into engineering training, there needs to be more female representation in the sector. You can’t be what you can’t see, so women need far more visibility in this sector.
For women carving a path in engineering, there are more options available than you might think. Engineering is becoming more open to women and employers are adapting to having more women in the workplace by offering things like flexible working opportunities.
Choosing the right sector for your interests and needs might take some trial and error. Taking unpaid internships during your studies is an excellent way to get to grips with different sectors and learn on the job. You should also attend recruitment fairs and get involved with key organisations to learn more about the opportunities available.
Which organisations can help?
There are two main organisations you should consider getting involved with if you are a woman working in engineering. WISE and the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) do excellent work to promote the sector and encourage more young women into engineering. They offer events and networking opportunities, mentorship and share job opportunities you might be interested in. Being involved with these organisations is not essential, but it will help you to connect with other women in the sector and allow you to be involved with shaping the future of engineering.
Which sectors should women consider?
There are no sectors that are off-limits to women, but women are often drawn to particular sectors. Civil engineering is a great example of a sector that greatly benefits from the presence of women.
Women have a unique perspective of the world, often facing unique challenges. Something as simple as making sure that bathrooms are accessible to women with pushchairs can make a huge difference to women everywhere. Yet this isn’t always something that will be flagged when men are at the helm.
Civil engineers also help to shape our cities and surroundings. When women are involved in decision making, cities become more accessible to families and safer for children. This is not to say that men do not consider these factors, but it is often under the guidance of women that cities become more user-friendly.
Environmental engineering is also a popular sector for women in the engineering sector. If you’re interested in green energy, environmental protection or wildlife, it offers a unique opportunity to combine your interests. Remember that choosing a job in one sector does not close off other opportunities. Moving between sectors can allow you to bring a unique perspective to engineering challenges.
How can women find opportunities?
Speak to an engineering recruitment agency to find out about new opportunities. They will be able to provide personalised support for sprucing up your CV and making a great first impression in interviews. A good recruitment agency will be on your side throughout your career, so you can be confident there is someone else as invested in your career development as you are.
How to succeed as a woman in engineering
Engineering is a competitive and challenging sector, and being a woman in the sector can amplify a lot of the challenges. It’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone and adopt a “can do” attitude. Remember that you’re competing against all applicants, not just the other women.
- Never stop learning. A good engineer takes the approach that learning is for life, not just for formal education. Take workshops, attend conferences and look for opportunities to expand your skills. Finding a senior figure willing to mentor you within your organisation will help you to identify your areas of weakness and create a career development plan.
- Don’t listen to stereotypes. Stereotypes are what prevent women from getting ahead in engineering. Be confident in your ability and allow this to speak louder than any stereotype ever could.
- Strive for recognition. Supporting female engineering awards is one way to increase visibility within the sector. There are multiple specialist awards including The IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards and The WISE conference and awards. Put yourself forward for awards and be supportive of other women in your sector who put themselves forward.
- Be confident in your ability. When applying for jobs, women tend to look for roles they feel they are 100% qualified for, while men are happy if they meet 60% of the requirements. When applying for roles, push yourself beyond your limit and see where you land. Remember that recruitment is more flexible than you might imagine, and companies won’t always expect you to jump in at the deep end.
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