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Why engineering and technology firms must diversify

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The following article was published in The House magazine.

This month the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) released the results of their eighth ‘Engineering and Technology: Skills & Demand in Industry’ survey, based on telephone interviews with 400 employers of engineering and IT staff in the UK. They found that half of engineering companies are currently recruiting, but an increasing proportion are experiencing problems recruiting the people they need, especially experienced staff. These problems are further exacerbated because the skills and talent of qualified women lie unused. 

Around 70% of female graduates in Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) don’t work in those fields, and many who start off in SET careers don’t stay. This situation threatens our chance of keeping pace with the rapidly growing leading-edge economies of the world.

What innovations remain undiscovered, or improvements in manufacturing that could produce better for less? This waste of talent, potential and investment cannot be allowed to continue, it’s time for change. 

The IET ‘Skills & Demand’ survey reveals that, despite government and sector initiatives to increase gender diversity, the percentage of women engineers and IT staff employed hasn’t increased. For the first time, employers were asked if they had taken any actions to improve diversity in their engineering, IT and technical workforce. The results are shocking. 1 in 3 companies said they did nothing at all to improve workforce diversity.

Only 6% said they had a positive attitude to flexible or part-time working, this despite flexible working being vital in increasing gender diversity. The most senior female engineer at Mott McDonalds in Sheffield told me that when her children were young she was able to work during term time only. This enabled her to manage her family responsibilities whilst continuing her career. By being adaptable, Mott McDonalds were rewarded with loyalty, allowing them to retain a talented and experienced female employee.

The IET found that employers are not confident of finding the engineers they will need in the near future, this for the second year running. The answer is evident, firms must diversify to compete. To read the survey report visit: www.theiet.org


Meg Munn, MP for Sheffield Heeley and Patron of the Women’s Engineering Society. She is working with industrial and educational leaders in South Yorkshire to make the county first choice for women and girls who want to study and work in engineering.

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