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Lack of Diversity in Engineering

  • by: Aimee Treasure
  • On: 8, Mar 2018
5 min read

On International Women’s Day 2018, we look at the Lack of Diversity in Engineering affecting Female, BAME and LGBT Engineers.

In Q4 2017, 22% of UK engineering businesses listed skills shortages as their most important business challenge in the coming years. To fill the skills gap, companies must widen their talent pools: capitalising on the currently untapped talent pool of diverse engineers will help attract the 1.8 million new engineers needed by 2025.

Female Engineers

Whilst women make up over 50% of the UK population, just 9% of the UK’s engineering workforce is female – the lowest in Europe – while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with 30%. The lack of women in the engineering industry is partly driven by an underrepresentation of female engineering students, which again is much lower for the UK than other countries across the globe. Just 15.8% of engineering and technology undergraduates in the UK are female – in comparison, over 30% of engineering students in India are women.

Last year a Google engineer went viral with a statement alleging that men are naturally predisposed to be better engineers than women. Although this employee was terminated from the company and publicly denounced, the company-wide publishing of discriminatory comments sends out the message that tech and engineering companies do not value the work of women – dissuading women from starting a rewarding career and serving as one of the factors behind the lack of diversity in engineering.

BAME Engineers

Despite people of ethnic minority background making up around 14% of the UK’s population, BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) talent is also underrepresented in the UK engineering industry. Although BAME students account for 25% of university engineering graduates, only 6% of UK engineers are from BAME backgrounds.

Engineers from ethnic minority backgrounds are proving that they have the talent, but that their skills are not being harnessed by universities or businesses across the UK and contributing to the lack of diversity in engineering. The proportion of UK citizens from ethnic minority communities is projected to reach 30% by 2050, signalling an expanding pool of potential BAME engineers who could provide the new skills that the UK engineering industry urgently needs.

LGBT Engineers

A ground-breaking report released last September found that LGBT engineers make up 5% of the industry’s workforce in the UK. Whilst engineering is more representative of this diversity strand than many other industries, LGBT engineers experience disproportionate factors that affect job satisfaction and workplace wellbeing.

A recent study by the Institution of Engineering and Technology found that 42% of LGBT engineers are not open about their sexuality at work, and 17% of LGBT engineers say that their career progression has suffered due to discrimination. Employees who hide their sexuality or gender identity at work are far more likely to leave the company years earlier than their heterosexual contemporaries, affecting employee retention and recruitment costs, and LGBT employees who are open with their colleagues are 25% more productive than closeted workers.

LGBT engineers are more proportionally prominent in the industry than female or BAME engineers, but with low levels of job satisfaction and career progression, the engineering industry could quickly lose valuable talent.

Why Does the Lack of Diversity in Engineering Matter?

Engineers who feel included are 80% more likely to report increased motivation and 68% more likely to increase their job performance. Happy, motivated and supported workers produce the highest quality products and services and remain loyal to their employers, meaning engineering businesses retain and develop skilled workers who drive business growth and success.

A recent report from McKinsey evidences that companies that score highly for ethnic diversity are 35% more financially successful than their competitors, with gender-diverse companies outperforming their competitors by 15%. Diversity is becoming an increasingly popular priority for many industries, with diverse businesses better equipped to understand and engage their global customer base and more successful in attracting and retaining talent from diverse groups.

For the future innovation, growth and success of the industry, engineering businesses must find ways to become more diverse, starting with getting more young people from diverse backgrounds into engineering.

How Can We Increase Diversity in Engineering?

Addressing the lack of diversity in engineering can be as simple as adding your voice to the support of diverse communities or as broad-scale as creating your own global diverse networks:

  • By sponsoring events centred around diversity in engineering or adding the company logo to a Women in STEM website, industry leaders align their brand with the values of their diverse employee base to inspire and encourage minority groups looking to enter the field.

  • Find out how the diverse engineers in your company really feel, and what they want and need from their employer. Dedicate time to the women, BAME and LGBT engineers in your company, support those who lack confidence in their own abilities and discover what they need to help them along their career path.

  • Direct communication will help to reverse the lack of diversity in engineering by attracting new diverse engineers. Listen to the engineers in your business, speak to diverse groups across the sector at networking events and research studies online, to understand the policies and brand values that appeal to diverse engineers when job seeking.

  • Increasing the number of one diverse group such as women in engineering also aids the recruitment of engineers from all backgrounds. Showcasing your support proves to technical workers that you care about their perception of your business, positioning your company as a great place to work and attracting candidates to your business over a competitor.

A diverse workforce filled with people of all ages and backgrounds will enrich the engineering sector with new knowledge, skills and experiences. Addressing the lack of diversity in engineering will help the industry to create exciting new technologies in a fast-paced and rapidly advancing world, allowing UK businesses to remain competitive in the face of global challenges and innovative when presented with new opportunities.

Read our White Paper: How to Get More Women into Engineering.

Find out how business leaders can solve the Precision Engineering Skills Shortage.

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