Over half of UK businesses lack gender diversity initiatives

A new practical guidance has been launched today by a union for professionals to help companies attract and retain more women into science and engineering roles


The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Prospect aim to support employees working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) by offering managers tips on how to ensure promotions are fairer among workforces of different genders.

The Progressing Women in STEM Roles guidance tackle issues like unconscious bias within the workplace, evaluating and monitoring the progress of diversity policies, and ensuring all staff feel valued regardless of their gender. It will also advise organisations on how they can implement effective ‘return to work’ programmes to re-integrate women coming back from career breaks.​

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Naomi Climer, IET President, said: “Only 9 per cent of engineering staff are women and the lack of gender diversity is contributing to skills shortages that are damaging the economy. The shocking reality is that the UK is missing out on half of its potential engineering and technology workforce by failing to attract women into the industry.

“With this in mind, the IET is leading the way in encouraging more women into the sector. We know, for example, that many employers acknowledge that the lack of women in their organisations is a real problem, and so we hope this guidance will prompt them to take practical action to address this – both in terms of how they recruit more women and how they nurture the talent of those they already employ.” 

“The announcement of our Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2015 also has an equally important role to play when it comes to gender diversity issues. By celebrating the achievements of exceptional women like Orla, we are giving young women a role model who will show them that women can make a real difference in our sector.”

Over half (57 per cent) of businesses in the UK do not have gender diversity initiatives in place and 41 per cent have acknowledged that they could do more to recruit staff from diverse backgrounds. 

Coinciding with the publication of the guidance, the IET has also announced Audio Engineer called Orla Murphy from Warwickshire​, as the winner of its Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2015. The twenty-five year old who is employed by Jaguar Land Rover attended an awards ceremony in London and was one of three category winners to be recognised for her outstanding work in the engineering sector. 

The Awards are part of the IET’s ongoing mission to find female role models to help address the UK science and engineering skills crisis. Women currently represent only 9 per cent of the engineering workforce in the UK. If this trend continues, the IET predicts that the UK will be in a significantly weakened position to find the 1.82 million engineers it is estimated the country will need in the decade up to 2022.

Sue Ferns, Prospect Deputy General Secretary, said: “With around 20,000 members working in STEM, we are acutely aware of both the skills challenge these roles face and their vital contribution to building a more sustainable economy. Prospect has been working hard to encourage greater recruitment and retention of women which we believe is key to tackling the emerging skills crisis. The practical guidance published today builds on this and incorporates our pioneering work with employers in tackling unconscious bias.”

Denise McGuire, Vice President of Prospect, added: “Here at Prospect we are huge advocates of promoting equality and fairness in the workplace which is why we were delighted to work closely with the IET on guidance to help women progress in STEM roles. I’m sure the guidelines will be an invaluable tool for any employer, especially those in STEM, who are looking to become more female friendly in the way they recruit and retain staff.” 

Published in an easy to reference format, the guidance looks to tackle issues like unconscious bias within the workplace, evaluating and monitoring the progress of diversity policies, and ensuring all staff feel valued regardless of their gender.

To view the Progressing Women in STEM Roles guidance, visit: www.theiet.org/women-in-stem

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