Ireland still needs female engineers. Here’s why.
Where are all the female engineers in Ireland? From civil to building, manufacturing to mechanical, engineering is an industry that bridges a huge variety of disciplines. Yet there’s a skills deficit that needs filling. Urgently.
Ireland’s supply of engineers falls short of what’s required by 50%. That’s a deficit of around 3,000 employees. For an explanation of how this has happened, you need look no further than the persistent thorn in engineering’s side: gender imbalance.
Female employees make up just 12% of the engineering industry in Ireland. The proportion of females among the current crop of engineering graduates is little better at 16%. That’s a ratio heavily stacked in favour of XY chromosomes. The impetus to drive females towards engineering is stronger than ever.
It’s not simply about redressing diversity imbalance for its own sake. Research has shown that companies with a greater level of gender diversity increase productivity by 35% and profitability by 3.5% for every 10% that the gender imbalance is reduced.
Redressing engineering’s gender imbalance
There is good news. The green shoots of change are taking root and there are signs that the perceived barriers to success are being removed. And, if there was any doubt that female engineers are as good as men, we need only point to the consistently outstanding accomplishments of the likes of Professor Aoife Gowen and Dr Niamh Shaw to illustrate the achievements that women in engineering can, and continue to, make.
Likewise, we have some excellent engineers here at CAW who are helping to change the industry for the better – one third of which are female.
Clare Duggan, Senior Project Manager, has shared her thoughts on how career advice at school should be approached in light of gender imbalance:
“Equal opportunities should begin at school level, when young people are making decisions that will affect their careers. There are societal benefits to removing gender imbalance from all industries, but this shouldn’t be the only, or primary, aim when assisting young people in making career defining choices. The main goal of such guidance should centre on helping teenagers select careers that suit their skillsets and will have the ability to engage them throughout their professional lives”.
Clionadh Williams, Process Engineer, also suggests that reaching girls early is vital for changing perceptions:
“By showing girls the different prospects and importance of engineering, we can help build and develop the necessary skills needed for different job requirements in the future. There’s a perception that an engineering role is a man’s role – this is totally inaccurate, and we need to remove this perception.
At CAW and beyond, there are positive steps being taken. Right across Ireland the opportunities are there for engineers to get their foothold in the industry. But we’re a long way from where we need to be as.
Changing minds, changing landscapes
There’s a clear need to battle the misconception that engineering is a job for the boys. And the stereotype needs be challenged all the way from primary school to the workplace.
One way this is being done is by giving the image of engineering an overhaul. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects were often presented as purely factual and black and white in nature in the past, when the reality is that engineering also requires imaginative problem solving, creative thinking and clear communication – areas where girls can really excel.
Educational programmes such as Engineers Ireland’s STEPS aim to inspire the engineers of tomorrow from an early age, with spectacular activities that young minds love.
Fetch your diary
Peeling back the misconceptions and maximising the skillset of a diverse workforce could make a huge difference to Ireland’s engineering industry. International Women in Engineering Day takes place today, (23rd June), which gives us the perfect chance to highlight the exciting opportunities available in engineering for women and the opportunities for greater diversity in this new decade… but we should also be making an effort to celebrate these all year round!