As part of our support for International Women in Engineering Day 2018 Dr Anne Nortcliffe looks at how changing the way we speak about engineering could help attract more women to study and work in the industry.
To develop solutions that work for everyone, the profession needs to reflect the modern and diverse society we live in. However, although roughly half of the world’s population is female, only 11% of engineering professionals are female. This gender imbalance can lead to engineering solutions that don’t quite work for females.
Research by The Institute of Engineering showed that schoolchildren identified a typical engineer as a white male, wearing a hard hat and hi-vis jacket working alone. If we are to increase the percentage of women engineers, we need to start at the beginning and stop perpetuating this stereotype. We need to look at the language and images we use to describe engineering to attract more females into the profession.
Research into job adverts has identified that the language used in recruitment can act as a barrier to potential female applicants. This is especially the case for engineering jobs, which tend to use words that are considered to reinforce masculine stereotypes such as ‘manage’, ‘competitive’, ‘challenge’ and ‘driven’, making women feel less inclined to apply as they feel they won’t belong.
Ahead of the launch of the University’s new engineering courses in 2019, we are working hard to ensure the images and language used for our new School of Engineering, Technology and Design are inclusive and appealing for all sections of society.
By replacing words that are perceived as masculine with those that appeal more to females, for example replacing ‘manage’ with ‘develop’ and using words like ‘collaborative’, ‘committed’, ‘responsive’ and ‘enthusiastic’, we are marketing engineering in a way that is inspiring and attractive to them.
By recruiting more females to our engineering courses we will be helping to encourage diversity within the profession, and perhaps encourage engineering solutions that work for everyone.
Dr Anne Nortcliffe is the Director of Engineering Curriculum.