Encouraging Gender Diversity in Engineering


Diversity is a big topic across many industries but with engineering and manufacturing being one of the biggest industries in the UK with over five million employees, it’s easy to shine a spotlight on the lack of representation for women in this sphere.

There is an imbalance heavily weighted towards males in STEM roles, but the research does show that there are more women in engineering today and that the numbers are growing. In fact, 14.5% of engineers right now in the UK are women, as reported in 2021. This may not sound like very much, but the good news is that this figure has increased by 26% since 2016.

Exploring why there is still such a gender gap in engineering and manufacturing is important, especially now when most businesses accept that a diverse, inclusive and representative workforce is of utmost importance. It’s also vital that we do more to understand what could be done to encourage more women to go into engineering – and stay there.

Getting Inspired Early

One of the important tools for encouraging girls and women into engineering is an inspiration. These industries have always been thought of as ‘male industries’ which means that right back at the GCSE level, there is little done to encourage girls to study engineering as a higher education option.

For example, this Engineering UK report details that 50% of girls choose to take on Physics as a subject at the GCSE level. This number shrinks to 22% at A-Level and then shrinks again to 16% for engineering and technology undergraduate degree entrants. Only 8% of entrants into engineering apprenticeships in the UK are female, shrinking the number of women interested in going further in their education even more.

STEM subjects are popular for girls in schools and it can be hard to pinpoint just why so many choose not to continue. One of the reasons so few girls go on to pursue STEM careers could be a lack of inspiration – after all, it’s well known that “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Without positive female role models both in the industry and at the senior level, it can be hard to see what is possible.

This can make the entire engineering industry feel like an unobtainable dream for many young girls who are trying to dip a toe into the right pool of career options. An industry dominated by men can be overwhelming but the only way for this to change is by encouraging girls from an early age. If young girls can feel inspired into complex roles in engineering, the chances are high that the gender gap can close. Creating an Inclusive Environment

The inspiration to engineering is one way to encourage women into the industry. Another way is via existing workplaces. If employers take advantage of the opportunities to learn about the positive outcomes of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, they could do more to gear their marketing towards women and encourage them into roles.

Retention is a big issue in the engineering and manufacturing industries according to this report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Did you know that almost half of all female graduates entering the industry leave within a few years of gaining their degree? The feedback in the research gained from women leaving engineering shows that the core issues revolve around equal treatment, promotion and recognition.

An effective way around this for employers is to introduce female-friendly policies to the workplace, such as generous maternity and childcare policies, flexible working options and overall inclusive company culture to encourage women to stay for the long term. Employers could also introduce mentoring programmes so that women in engineering have a clear pathway to victory based on successful women who have gone before them.

Giving Women A Voice

With a lack of female representation in engineering, it’s important that companies inspired to be more diverse are listening carefully. What are the existing female employees asking for? What matters most to their working conditions? How can you adjust to make their environment more comfortable and inclusive?

Communication is key and asking your female employees these questions will give them an active voice to further progress the industry. Many women won’t meet other female engineers until they are engineers themselves and so it’s important that current female engineers are being heard. Consulting women about the support they need and giving them an active voice in decision-making processes will pave the way for more women to want to work in engineering in the future.

Employers have to engineer a comfortable balance between men and women in the sector, provide a welcoming environment for women and open the lines of communication both ways if they want to be positive in diversity.


Everyone in the engineering industry has the responsibility of creating an inclusive environment, and if businesses can build the right image to show that anyone of any gender can fit in, the question of why there are not enough women in engineering won’t be a factor in the future. A balance of early education for younger girls and ensuring that employers are putting more emphasis on the benefits for women in engineering will hopefully show an increase of women taking up these roles in the future.

Connecting with the best candidates in engineering roles is important and if you want to learn more about how to find the right ones, contact us. Our engineering recruitment agency is here to ensure that employers understand the benefits of an inclusive workspace and help candidates into roles that make them feel inspired. Speak to our team today!