There are around 83,000 civil engineers in the UK, according to government figures, but only 12% of them are women. The good news is that the number of women studying civil engineering rose from 13.5% to 20% in 10 years between 2007 and 2017, according to a study by Ucas.
Penny Marshall, Northeast Regional Director at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), says that while tremendous progress has been made over the past decade, it is disappointing that this has not yet resulted in change. radical in the number of women entering the profession. “The zero carbon imperative and the need to adapt to deal with climate change will offer many more opportunities over the next decade, and I hope they will inspire more women to join our ranks,” says -she.
Faye Bowser, head of energy performance and service at Siemens, says the sustainability factor makes civil engineering more attractive to women. “I have worked in the energy sector for over 16 years and I have one dominant impression that sustainability attracts women. “
Bowser attributes this to the fact that the industry’s roots lie in centralized, state-owned coal, gas and nuclear power, all historically male-dominated industries, while the energy sector is fresh, innovative and inspiring.
Bowser, for example, was drawn to the role she could play in tackling the climate crisis. “The modern energy industry is driven by wind, solar, batteries, multinational companies, constant innovation and intense competition,” she said. “The energy system is transforming brilliantly, and it creates a need to transform our workforce, to put aside stereotypes and to harness the value of diversity in thought. “
Fiona Tiley, design manager, Northwest and Scotland, at Network Rail, says 19% of the rail operator’s engineering team are women, but they struggle to attract women to work for them. They are currently revamping their job postings to try and make them more appealing to women and minority groups by using more diverse images and interview panels, Tiley explains. “As a longer term strategy, we are focusing on engaging our staff in Stem activities and mentoring to attract elementary and high school youth to engineering, regardless of gender or ethnicity. “, she says.
Yvonne Murphy, president of ICE Wales Cymru, said the UK should seek to learn from other countries in Europe. “About 50% of engineers are women in Eastern Europe,” she says.
Murphy thinks engineers have an image problem and a number of confusing stereotypes. “On television, children see scientists in lab coats, police officers and women in uniform, doctors, nurses, firefighters and teachers, but rarely engineers,” she says. “Plumbers, electricians and elevator maintenance operators are called engineers, which makes it a bit more difficult for those of us who practice civil engineers to explain to children and / or potential engineers of the future where they could fit in. “
Civil engineering, like any other industry, should reflect the society it serves, says Murphy. “We design civilian infrastructure that must be useful and accessible to everyone – rich, poor, race, culture, language, religion, gender, special needs, elderly, children, etc.
Bowser believes organizations like Siemens are slowly shedding the industry’s perception of “jobs for boys”. “There are challenges at all levels, which we call the ‘leaky pipeline,’ she says. “Each stage of the pipeline has its own complexities, which is why Siemens has a range of initiatives. For example, unconscious bias training is mandatory for all managers and we offer a number of development programs targeting women in leadership positions.
Fiona Moore, commercial director of Land and Water, which has nearly 50:50 men and women on its board, says she thinks the engineering industry is “admirably inclusive.”
“I think the sex doesn’t matter. When it comes to finding a job, what’s most important – for both men and women – is finding a company that’s right for you, ”says Moore.
Her firm does not specifically target women but tries to include women at all stages of their careers. “Our teams are filled with exceptional women and we are always ready to develop people and move people around the company to try out different roles, no one is limited,” notes Moore.
The irony is, Tiley says, that civil engineering is actually a brilliant career for women. “Many engineering companies, including Network Rail, promote a flexible work culture and offer family-friendly policies. Throughout my career, I’ve always been either the only woman or one of two or three, but I’ve never seen that as a disadvantage and I’ve always been treated equally. with my peers.