Why is it important for your company to strive for gender equality?

Engineering in the UK has an enormous skills gap with an annual shortfall of 59,000 engineering
graduates and technicians in 2018. Part of the solution to this is making sure that everyone, from
any gender, is able to consider engineering as a career. In addition, retention of women in
engineering is a known problem. A 2016 study by the IMechE, “Stay or go? The experience of female
engineers in early career”, found that over two thirds of women in engineering roles feel they have
to adapt their personality to get by and 83% have personally witnessed or experienced
discriminatory language or behaviour. It also found that nearly half of female engineering graduates
do not enter the engineering profession and 67% of female IMechE members leave the institution by
the age of 35.

We feel that by working hard to improve the experiences of women in work, more will stay in
engineering careers and help to stop the engineering skills gap in the UK. The study also found that
58% of women entering an engineering career had a role model. More women staying in
engineering careers will be able to be role models for girls and young women and encourage them
to consider engineering as a career thereby increasing the percentage of women starting
engineering careers. By increasing the number of women in engineering roles, we may start to
address the skills gap in the UK.

What steps have you taken so far?
The Devon and Cornwall Area Committee make nearly all their events free and open to the public
(with the exception of professional registration events specifically for members). We also run joint
events with other local committees and interest groups to promote engineering to all their members
and help with networking and knowledge sharing. As a committee, 4 of the 9 members are women
(not by design) but we hope that their input helps to keep events and communications relevant to
all.

Every year we run a Cardboard Boat Race, our flagship event that brings the fun and practicality of
engineering to people of all ages across the area. We invite local groups including WISP to hold
stands at the event and ensure that women are represented at all levels of the event (from STEM
ambassadors to boat specialists to judges). We support the WISP annual Young Women into
STEM Careers fair with a stand promoting the possibilities of engineering careers. We have also
started a partnership with a local school to support the teachers and parents in learning about engineering careers and creating role models for all pupils and plan to create more partnerships in
the coming years.

What advice would you give to other STEM companies that want to increase their gender
equality?

There is a lot of information available both on the WISP website and just by doing an internet search
if you are trying to make your workplace more gender inclusive. This can be done simply through
adjusting your wording on your website or job adverts and over time by changing the culture of the
workplace. Try to make women less of an exotic novelty in your workforce and more like any other
member of the team. The 2016 IMechE report found that “Well-intended efforts to encourage
greater participation of women in engineering through ‘positive action’ can have unintended
negative consequences. The reality is that female engineers wish to be properly recognised for their
accomplishments through positive feedback from managers and colleagues. While financial rewards
are important, these engineers also seek informal recognition, promotion and additional seniority
and responsibilities, appropriate to their achievements – but not special treatment.”

Why are networking groups like WISP important to your company?

WISP is a key part of changing the culture in engineering in and around Plymouth. The more women
in Plymouth participate in STEM careers, the more Plymouth will become a better place to work as a
woman in STEM. Aside from the promotion of gender equality, STEM subjects develop best through
multi-skilled teams and so promoting networking and knowledge sharing across interest groups and
professional institutions will lead to developments in STEM and more fulfilling careers for all.