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Engineering CEOs commit to tackling gender crisis

23 June 2017


To mark International Women in Engineering Day, CEOs and senior leaders from some of the UK’s top engineering companies are joining the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in calling for urgent action from the top to address the shortage of women in UK engineering.

Women currently account for only 9% of the UK’s engineering workforce, yet 63% of UK engineering employers do not have gender diversity initiatives in place*.

Making the call are:

  • Peter Flint, CEO Building + Places EMIA, AECOM
  • Sir Michael Arthur, President, Boeing Europe and Managing Director, Boeing UK and Ireland
  • Mark Elborne, CEO & President, GE UK & Ireland
  • Elizabeth Hill, Chief Product Engineer, Jaguar Land Rover
  • Norman Bone, Chairman and Managing Director, Leonardo MW Ltd
  • Dawn Elson, Group Engineering Director, Merlin Entertainments
  • James Harris, Managing Director UK and Europe, Mott MacDonald
  • Steve Hollingshead, Chief Executive Officer, J. Murphy and Sons Ltd
  • Mark Carne, Chief Executive, Network Rail
  • Nadia Savage, Director for High Speed Rail, Laing O’Rourke
  • Sharon White, CEO, Ofcom
  • Ian Ritchey, Group Chief Engineer, Rolls-Royce
  • Dr. Paul Gosling, VP Engineering, Thales UK
  • Marguerite Ulrich, Chief Human Resources Officer, Veolia UK and Ireland 

The call comes from engineering leaders during a panel discussion at the start of the IET’s #9percentisnotenough conference, which takes place today in Birmingham and is named after the IET’s multi-award winning social media campaign to highlight the gender diversity issue in UK engineering. Engineering industry leaders will be joined at the event by senior HR professionals, as well as other representatives from industry, academia and the professional engineering institutions.

While the industry leaders making the call to action have already introduced initiatives to support greater gender diversity, they are now committing, as an industry, to take further concrete action within their own organisations to improve the 9% figure. Their commitment involves taking one or more of the following actions:

  • Formal gender diversity programme to measure and report on female recruitment and retention
  • New approach to advertising jobs in order to attract more women
  • ‘Work returner’ programmes
  • Mentoring and sponsorship programmes
  • Career planning and flexible working
  • Affinity groups and networking opportunities for women
  • Promote apprenticeship and work experience programmes to girls
  • Awards and initiatives to celebrate female engineering role models (such as the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards**)

Taking place on International Women in Engineering Day, the #9percentisnotenough conference will share ideas on these and other practical solutions to overcome barriers and inspire, attract, recruit and retain more women in engineering and technology roles.

IET President, Professor Jeremy Watson CBE, said: “The time has come to stop talking about the problem and take definitive action. Not only is the lack of women in engineering compounding the skills shortage in the UK, but it also means UK companies are missing out on the benefits that come from a more diverse and balanced workforce. It’s great to see engineering leaders acknowledging the gravity of the shortage of women in engineering and committing to take industry-wide action to change the status quo.”

Peter Flint, Chief Executive, Buildings + Places EMIA, AECOM, said: “At AECOM we are striving to create diverse teams who can flourish because of a highly inclusive culture, and we're proud of the advances we're making as a company in supporting our people to take action: supporting STEM programmes, leading the industry through innovation and celebrating personal achievements. We hope that by joining forces with others within our industry we can properly, and more widely, address and influence change.” 

Sir Michael Arthur, President, Boeing Europe and Managing Director, Boeing UK and Ireland, said: “In Boeing we are acutely aware that we will not maintain the competitiveness required to sustain our position as the world's largest aerospace and defence company if we don't recruit and retain the best talent worldwide. The best talent means a diverse workforce and Boeing is actively committed to increasing the number of women in engineering through grassroots initiatives and programmes designed to bring down the barriers to an engineering career path.  This is one of Boeing's enduring values and is a strategic imperative to becoming a global industrial champion.  Boeing proudly supports International Women in Engineering day and the great work that the Institution of Engineering and Technology is doing to inspire future female innovators."

Mark Elborne, CEO & President, GE UK & Ireland,commented:“Closing the gender gap by bringing more women into technology and manufacturing is not just a nice sounding campaign slogan, but an economic necessity, with OECD data clearing demonstrating that it could increase GDP by up to 10% by 2030. In February GE announced a goal of having 20,000 women filling STEM roles by 2020 and obtaining 50:50 representation for all our technical entry-level program. The program will significantly increase the representation of women in our engineering, manufacturing, IT and product management roles ­- a strategy we feel injects urgency into addressing the ongoing gender imbalance.”

Elizabeth Hill, Chief Product Engineer, Jaguar Land Rover, said: "My hugely rewarding and fascinating career in engineering began by accident...or luck 20 years ago.  Thankfully we do not leave it to chance anymore and recruiting and retaining women across the organisation is a priority for Jaguar Land Rover.  We invest in specific programmes to inspire and support young female engineers, and have been very successful in bucking the trend with 15.5% engineering apprentices and 16.5% of graduates being women.  To continue our success we must have a workforce to match the diversity in our global customer base and this is something we will continue to work towards."

Nadia Savage, Director for High Speed Rail, Laing O’Rourke, said: “The UK has a deservedly high reputation across the globe for innovation in engineering and construction.  Our skilled teams are now at the cutting edge of new technology, with new ways of working and creative processes. With many major infrastructure projects on the horizon, we need to act immediately to address not just the gender imbalance, but the lack of wider diversity across industry, to ensure we attract the expert talent we need to compete in the future.”

Norman Bone, Chairman and Managing Director, Leonardo MW Ltd, said: “The talent pipeline of female engineers could be so much more. Our nation depends upon our engineers creating world-beating technology. It isn’t sustainable for the UK to have the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe. A career in engineering has to be seen as an environment which welcomes women. That’s why Leonardo is working with schools, universities and across industry to help change current perceptions. If females aren’t thriving in engineering, then engineering is missing out.”

Dawn Elson, Group Engineering Director, Merlin Entertainments, said: “The entire engineering industry in the UK has been wrestling with this diversity challenge for decades and the progress has been an increase from 7% to 9% in the past 20 years. We need to seriously address this challenge now, so this event is hugely important to: help us champion female engineering role models; better translate engineering careers to girls and the families who influence their career choice; and to understand how to enable qualified female engineers who have left the profession to return to it.”

James Harris, Managing Director UK and Europe, Mott MacDonald, said: “We are committed to increasing the representation and diversity of women working at Mott MacDonald in the UK. We have established goals on gender, race, disability and LGBT+ inclusion to support our business as a diverse and inclusive place to work and are keen that engineering is seen as a desirable profession for all.”  

Steve Hollingshead, Chief Executive Officer, J. Murphy and Sons Ltd, said: “We are proud to stand behind the #9PercentIsNotEnough campaign. If we are going to invest and build our society, it is vital that we properly represent it. To excel in a competitive global market, our workforce must be inclusive so we are striving to break down barriers and unlock the talents of our future female engineers.” 

Mark Carne, Chief Executive, Network Rail, said: “At Network Rail, we believe that attracting and retaining a diverse mix of talent is essential not only for our business but also for the UK economy as a whole. We’ve already publicly committed to increasing the proportion of females in our business and have implemented a raft of measures to help us achieve our ambitions.  There is still a wide perception that engineering jobs are for ‘boys only’ so we’re working to educate children, parents and teachers about the vast array of jobs within this field.”

Sharon White, Chief Executive, Ofcom, said: “We want talented women to find rewarding careers in engineering and technology. A diverse, inclusive workforce can bring new skills and perspectives, unlock economic and creative potential, and help the UK remain a world leader in technology, engineering and innovation.”

Ian Ritchey, Group Chief Engineer, Rolls-Royce, said: "Science and engineering talent is the lifeblood of our company and we must seek out the best people from across the whole of society to realise our full potential. It is vital that our industry continues to drive initiatives to promote gender diversity in STEM and I am delighted to commit us to this pledge."

Dr. Paul Gosling, VP Engineering, Thales UK, said: “Working to increase the number of women in engineering is a key business priority at Thales in the UK. A diverse workforce encourages innovation, competitiveness and drives better results, which is why it's vital that we all continue to engage young girls into STEM at an early age, to help address the gender skills gap in the UK."

Marguerite Ulrich, Chief Human Resources Officer, Veolia UK and Ireland, said:“Throughout history, women have played a key role in changing the world as we know it by breaking boundaries in everything from science, engineering and technology. These are the women we should be showcasing to girls and young women this International Women in Engineering Day because they are the real pioneers. I say this because only 9% of engineers are women; however, of the estimated 2.5 million job openings for engineers in the UK half of these are forecast to be filled by women. We need to help more women recognise their full potential and the full portfolio of STEM careers open to them such as creating green energy from food waste to industrial plant management.”

Notes to editors:

*IET Skills & Demand in Industry Survey, 2016.

** The IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award seeks and celebrate the best young women engineers in the UK. The deadline for entries is on Friday 7 July.