Engineers Ireland report finds 71% of female engineers believe sector offers plenty of job opportunities

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A new engineering group dedicated to help women build careers in the sector has said ‘unconscious bias’ training for engineers and actively encouraging men to take paternity and parental leave could help to close the gender gap in the industry.

The Group, to be formally launched on International Women’s Day 2021, 8 March, said other targeted steps like gender-balanced committees and interview panels, more diverse interviewee lists, and a greater mixture across boards and senior management in engineering companies would be effective in supporting the career progression of women engineers.

Speaking ahead of the inaugural event of the Engineers Ireland ‘Women in Engineering Group’, Georgina Molloy, Chartered Engineer and its first Chair, said its key goals were to encourage more women to enter the engineering industry, to keep women in the profession and to attract women who may have left to come back.

“Many female engineers work in male-dominated environments such as offices, facilities and sites, and can sometimes face unconscious biases. Our new Women in Engineering Group is the first of its kind in Ireland, and will formally create a network to facilitate connections between women working in engineering roles, to knowledge-share, exchange ideas, and boost the number of women working in the engineering profession. We hope that this new Group, which is also open to men to help us jointly tackle the gender gap, can help women engineers create a clear pathway for progression so they remain in the industry, as well as attracting some women back to the profession who may have left to work in another more gender-balanced industries, or just taken a career break.” 

Molloy, who is a Design Engineer at Scaffold Design Ireland, added: “We need fresh thinking in how we tackle this gender gap.  For example, by providing unconscious bias training for engineers and within companies, as well as actively encouraging men to take their entitlement of paternity and parental leave – so that family leave is not seen as something that only women avail of – could help hugely.  Some other steps we should take include having more gender-balanced committees, interview panels, diverse interviewee lists, boards and senior management, in engineering companies.  We also believe that men are an extremely important part of the solution and we welcome and encourage them to join our group and our events, because we cannot close the gap without them.”

Director General of Engineers Ireland, Caroline Spillane, said: “Each year International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate the contribution women in our industry make around the world.  And at a time when Ireland and the world is economically so challenged, it is hugely encouraging to see our new barometer report on the sector showing as many as 71% of female engineers confident about job opportunities here, and 84% saying engineering is a rewarding career choice.  This is a really strong platform from which to launch our inaugural ‘Women in Engineering Group’ to build on this progress and do even more.”

“We also hope that members of the Group and successful engineers like Georgina can be role models for young women, inspiring them to study STEM subjects and to ultimately explore the rewarding careers the profession can offer. And this follows last week’s hugely enjoyable STEPS Engineers Week 2021 campaign which showcased to girls, boys and students across Ireland the endless opportunities a career in engineering can afford them,” added Spillane.

The first formal Engineers Ireland ‘Women in Engineering Group’ event, to take place on Monday, 8 March to mark International Women’s Day, is called ‘Choose to challenge, breaking down barriers’, and will have a male and female panel discussion with a Q&A session that is open online to engineers and members of the public. The Group also forms part of Engineers Ireland’s Inclusion and Diversity Group, who will seek to promote diversity beyond gender diversity in the profession.

The ‘Engineering 2021: A barometer of the profession in Ireland’ report, launched to mark Engineers Week 2021, also found that 79% of engineering organisations are planning to recruit new staff in 2021 despite the severe impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.  The report, based on a survey of engineering professionals and organisations across Ireland, showed that the engineering sector has remained resilient in the worst of the pandemic last year, with two-thirds – particularly electrical, electronic and public administration engineers – actually increasing their salary in 2020.

Last week Engineers Ireland held its 15th annual STEPS Engineers Week.  Funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Education and industry leaders Arup, ESB, Intel and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the week-long campaign featured exciting virtual events involving students, teachers and companies across the nation to celebrate the world of engineering in Ireland.

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