Engineering ways to address the gender gap
Although the actual number of women working in engineering roles has risen from 562,000 in 2010 to 936,000 in 2021, along with an overall expansion of the engineering workforce from 5.3m to 5.6m over the same period, a ‘staggering’ increase is still needed in girls studying maths or physics to close the engineering gender gap.
Luke Smoothy, director and founder of London-based manufacturing specialist, Get It Made, agrees: “We have seen encouraging signs that female employment within engineering and manufacturing has grown over the past 10 years. However, we believe that there is still much work to be done for women within the industry to acquire the opportunities they deserve. As one of the UK’s fastest-growing manufacturing enterprises, and having worked with many high-profile clients, we’re well aware of the gender imbalance within UK engineering."
In 2022, in recognition of International Women in Engineering Day, it launched a new grant to encourage the growth of female employment within UK engineering, design and manufacturing industries, which was awarded to Emm, a femtech start-up. Championing INWED 2023 on 23rd June, it plans to do the same again this year, with the grant tailored exclusively to female-led, engineering, design and manufacturing enterprises, and up to £10,000 being awarded to the recipient. In addition to financial support, Get It Made will also be offering its expertise to help guide young female-led businesses through the challenges facing any young company in a post-Covid environment.
“We are delighted to be able to continue to offer our support to the ongoing efforts of increasing female representation within UK engineering. What we hope is that more grants such as this will lead to the removal of barriers that are still standing in the way of female-founded enterprises within UK manufacturing,” says Smoothy.
Q&A Spotlight: Aiza Sadirbayeva, project manager at Get It Made
What's your background?
"I did my foundation year at Michigan Tech University in biomedical engineering, then finished my medical engineering degree at Anglia Ruskin University in 2021."
Did you always want to get into manufacturing?
"Not fully, it has definitely become more interesting throughout my studies. I was always curious about how things were made, and my current role involves finding this out!"
Why did you want to work at Get it Made?
"It was a perfect role that involved engineering and project management, which is exactly what I was looking for."
What's your view on the current status of women in the industry, do you feel there are more now than a few years ago or there is still a big gender gap?
"Definitely, more women nowadays, which makes me incredibly proud. But I must say, it is still nowhere near enough. Hoping as time goes on, women will feel more comfortable in a predominantly male industry."
From your own experience, do you think there are enough opportunities in the industry for women?
"Since I have only been in this industry for over a year, from my own perspective so far, it seems like women and men have equal opportunities in the job market."
Do you deal with many women in your daily role?
"Honestly, no. I would say the ratio is 1:10 women to men."
Have you personally experienced any sexism towards you or anyone other women in the industry?
"I wouldn't say sexism, but prejudice. Not very often, but sometimes people would not take me or the work I do as seriously since I am a woman."
What do you think would encourage more women, and the innovation they might harbour?
"This is a systematic problem, and it starts from a really young age. Toys for girls are all based around house chores and raising children etc., whereas toys for boys are more mechanical. We need to offer more grants and scholarships for women in STEM. This will definitely increase the number of women in manufacturing, further inspiring the younger female generation to get into STEM.
"I hope in the next few years, we no longer talk about women in engineering, just simply engineers or manufacturers, as more women shatter the glass ceiling and the gender gap slowly disappears."