Women in Science and Engineering signs up business leaders to attract and retain women into the sector
Leaders from some of Britain’s top science, engineering, technology and manufacturing companies have come together in an effort to boost the number of women who enter – and then stay in – these areas of industry.
Working with the Women in Science, Technology and Engineering (WISE) campaign, chief executives and chairmen from 20 major companies operating in the sector including BAE Systems, Babcock, National Grid and Rolls-Royce have committed to a 10-point plan intended to increase the number women in the industry.
They have also written to David Cameron asking him to back the measures – which include formal plans to increase female representation, challenging sexism and bias, making flexible work and career breaks a reality, and prioritising retaining women so it is a core business issue – in an attempt to solve Britain’s intensifying skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
WISE, which is working with the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), says that although the number of women in engineering jobs has doubled since 2012 to 26,000 today, they still represent less than one in 10 people in the profession – the lowest rate in Europe.
WISE estimates that the UK will need almost 1.3m STEM professionals and technicians by 2020 but universities and colleges current turn out just 71,000 a year.
To help make up the shortfall more women must be brought in to the sector, WISE argues.
Trudy Norris-Grey, chair of WISE, said: “Our economy needs more women in science, technology and engineering to propel the competitiveness of the UK industry on the world stage. To make a real difference, we need the commitment of industry at the highest level to ensure the working environment gives women the same opportunities to succeed as their male colleagues.
“I am delighted that 20 top companies have shown leadership in being the first to commit to implement the 10-point plan. We hope that, with the Prime Minister’s support, many more companies will join them in the future.”
Allan Cook, chairman RAE’s diversity leadership group and chairman of Atkins, said: “UK industry needs to recruit, retain and inspire the best talent available to build and retain a competitive position in the STEM business sector. As long as women represent such a small proportion of our workforce, especially at senior levels, we know that we are missing out on a rich pool of talent. It is widely recognised that a diverse workforce offers real advantages in terms of increased innovation and effectiveness.”
“This is a business imperative as we look to maintain and enhance the UK’s competitive edge in our engineering sector which is such a vital part of our national economy.”