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Why Changing Attitudes are Closing the Gender Gap in the Field of Engineering



Traditionally, engineering was a job that was regarded as being exclusively for men, with pretty much no women in the field. Nowadays, there are still definitely more men than women present in engineering roles, but compared to previously, we are seeing more female engineers than ever before. Having both men and women in the workplace can make it a much healthier environment and the more we expand our workforces, the bigger range in opinions and skillsets we can get. If you want to find out more about why changing attitudes are closing the gender gap in engineering, read on! 

More Encouragement for Women to Go into STEM Careers:

Until fairly recently, one of the biggest reasons why women didn’t tend to go into jobs such as engineering was because they were often discouraged from doing so. When career options used to be presented to young people thinking about their future, it was assumed that men would go into traditionally ‘manly’ jobs such as STEM careers or anything ‘hands-on’ and practical, like building or carpentry. Nursing, teaching and caring jobs were often pushed towards women. In more recent years, these attitudes have changed hugely – mainly because people have realized that women can make great engineers, and by not having them in this field, valuable people and their skills have been left out. 

More modern approaches to presenting career options to young adults or teenagers include not discouraging anyone from going into any job based on their gender – rather, everyone has equal opportunities. In some cases, schools have actively tried to get women more involved in STEM subjects in order to get more women into related careers. Now, female engineers are actually in huge demand. This has been achieved through a variety of methods – for example, through female-only events and clubs which encourage girls to get into these subjects without feeling intimidated. 

Becoming an engineer can also be approached through a variety of different angles: you can start in a company right away and work your way up, or alternatively you could do a degree in engineering if you are looking to get into more advanced fields of work. This means that engineering can suit women who are more academically minded, or those who are more practically focused, as there is a need for both, and each role is equally necessary within society. 

More Girls Are in Higher Education:

Another big reason why we are seeing more women than ever in jobs such as engineering is because nowadays, more women are progressing into higher education than before. Engineering is a field which can be quite competitive to get into and often you need a college degree to get into a high-end engineering job. Whereas before, college intake was predominantly male dominated, we are seeing more and more women staying on and doing the same. 

Rather than encouraging women to drop out of school at a younger age to do one of the traditional ‘female’ jobs, it is now really encouraged that anyone with good academic ability should use that to their advantage and stay in education for as long as possible. 

Girls actually often perform better in STEM subjects and achieve much higher grades than a lot of the boys, but not many of them go on to do a STEM career. It is really important that we keep pushing for girls to do what they are actually good at and enjoy, not what they think is expected of them, so that we don’t have to miss out on thousands of people who would be great at the job. 

Less Reliance on Women to Fulfil Traditional Roles:

In the past, women were often regarded as the people in the family who would look after the children, do the household chores and cook. Nowadays, it may be regarded as shocking or sexist to suggest this, so these roles are not expected of women in the same way as they previously were. 

Additionally, it was expected in the past that women would have children and their main responsibility would be a mother, which would prevent them from progressing within their job. A lot less women follow this traditional path today; many decide to have children later on in life, or some may decide to not have children at all. For women who do decide to have children, there is now less pressure on them being ‘stay-at-home’ mothers – there are ways of both being a mother and progressing with your career simultaneously. 

Nowadays, paternity leave exists as well as maternity leave, and it is often seen that the parents will share the responsibility of looking after a child in its early infancy, so there is less pressure on the mother to do it all. This means that both parents are able to carry on with their career alongside having a child, which motivates more and more women to choose a more challenging career such as engineering. Prior to the existence of paternity leave, employers would be less likely to employ a woman over a man due to the potential risk that she would have a child and therefore have to have time off. Now, however, a woman does not have to weigh up having a baby and having a career – she can do both at the same time. 

Furthermore, childcare is abundant these days, so it is really easy to find a childminder, an au pair, or after school clubs which you can rely on for looking after your children after school. This means your job doesn’t have to be limited to school hours, and that you can work outside of these too. 

Employers Are More Conscious of Making the Workplace Equal:

Finding a job as a woman in the engineering field these days is actually quite easy, due to employers being keen to ensure that their workplace is equal. Whereas before, being a woman would have been a real disadvantage, many employers have now come to appreciate having a mixture of men and women who can collaborate and share their ideas. To become an engineer, both men and women have to go through the same vigorous process, which sometimes involves lots of hard exams, so both genders will have proved themselves worthy of being an engineer. Therefore, there is no real reason why there should be inequality in the workplace. 

There are no disadvantages at all to adding more women to a company – they provide a different perspective. In fact, often women are really keen to prove the stereotypes wrong, so they sometimes overcompensate by working extra hard. They often end up working up the company pretty quickly too. Click here to find out why women in engineering often end up in managerial roles. 

To ensure that workplaces are striving for equality, quotas sometimes exist. This means that employers should aim for a certain percentage of their employees to be female, so that they are held accountable for reaching their targets. For this reason, if an employer interviews a man and a woman who both have the same experience, they may go for the woman so that some diversity can be added to the company. 

The Need for More Engineers:

There is pretty much always a need for more engineers – whether this be electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, chemical engineers or anything else. Engineers are often responsible for keeping everything in place – whether that be faulty pipes, or having to make sure bridges are built sufficiently. Engineers are crucial to our society, and one way to increase the number of engineers is by allowing women to have this opportunity. 

A lot of women will have completely disregarded the idea of becoming an engineer due to the typical stereotypes which may have discouraged them from ever considering that as an option. Now that the narrative has been changed and women are appreciated within these kinds of roles, a lot more scientific or mathematically minded women will opt for these careers. If there are other female colleagues on board, then other women will be far more likely to join the company as an engineer too – while men and women do work well together, it can feel reassuring to know that you have a companion with you. 

Changing attitudes have had great impacts on the field of engineering so far and will continue to have the same effect. When living in a modern world, it is only right that engineers represent society realistically, rather than only having men in the role. This will result in a cyclical structure of growth in women within this sector. As more women are employed, they will become role models for young girls interested in engineering, of which there has been a lack in the past. By seeing inspirational and successful women, far more girls will be more likely to pursue this as a career, helping to close the gender gap further. In turn, this will help us develop a more equal, more representative society which does not limit people by their gender and does not limit anyone’s aspirations.

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