Women bring a different perspective and can add to the creativity needed in our industry, but there is still a lack of information available to sell the sector to prospective new joiners, says Kristina Scheibler-Frood, principal structural engineer at AECOM.
Why do men want to work in the industry and women don’t?
The term civil engineering is often misinterpreted and commonly associated with being a career for men. However, the definition of an engineer is someone who designs, creates and connects the world around us. They enable towns, cities and people to thrive. But if this is true, why would men want to pursue a career in the industry and not women?
The UK was one of the first countries to allow women to study and receive an academic certification in both maths and science, which is hard to believe given the country still has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe.
With only 12% of females following this career path, the UK engineering industry has faced great difficulty in inspiring young women to become engineers.
The most likely reason for this is a lack of understanding about what engineering involves and how broad this area of study can be. It’s also fair to say that growing up, people often associate engineering with construction, building and men.
Society has often stereotyped this field as male dominated, which can be a damaging perception for aspiring female engineers. What little interest they have could disappear if they believe they would not be able to compete with boys. In addition to this, from a very early age, young children are easily influenced by what they see on TV.
Men are generally depicted doing construction or building work due to the misconception that it is all about muddy boots and oily hands.
In contrast, women are seen to be more creative and commonly stay away from any jobs that are seen to be ‘dirty’. Again, this raises the question: How many people actually know what civil engineering really means?
Although society plays a vital role in influencing women, there are other factors that must be considered.
Businesses need to act and invest in a more balanced workforce and encourage diversity. There is a lot of pressure on women who decide to settle down and start a family during their career. They might fear they will not be as skilled to do the job after time away on maternity leave.
Several companies, including AECOM, now offer return to work programmes, which can be hugely beneficial. To attract more women into the profession, more businesses will need to come on board with this idea and support similar initiatives. In addition, flexible working is another key factor that must be considered. Days on site can often be long and childcare responsibilities can be a huge strain on women and their partners.
Women bring a different perspective and can add to the creativity needed in our industry, but there is still a lack of information available to sell the sector to prospective new joiners. Civil engineering opens up great career opportunities and it’s about finding your niche. Having been in the industry for seven years, I have experienced a lot of these amazing opportunities and would like to now help #TransformTheFuture for aspiring young females.
Kristina Scheibler-Frood, principal structural engineer at AECOM.