International Women in Engineering Day – ‘Catch them young and give them the confidence to flourish’

In a bid to encourage more women into construction, associate director Jo Jones attended a roundtable as part of the run up to International Women in Engineering Day (INWED). Here, she talks about how we can close the gender gap in the industry.

Capturing their imagination while young, showing them the importance of maths and giving them the confidence to flourish are just some of the ways we can work together to encourage more women into the engineering industry.

At the moment, women make up less than just 11 per cent of the construction workforce.
So, in the run up to INWED, many women have been coming together to share their experiences, raise the profile of females in engineering and also brainstorm ideas on how we can work together to close the gender gap.

Today, I attended Pick Everard’s INWED Roundtable in Leicester, which brought together 20 strong and empowering women from the construction industry.

Some of the stories they told – such as how, when starting out in the industry, they felt the need to prove themselves so much more because of their gender or how they have to justify their job to people each time they tell them their chosen career – were really eye opening.

However, there were many positive stories too.

Women shared that although they felt like the questioning about why they’re an engineer has never stopped, they have noticed that the new generation is extremely open to change.

And this is the generation we need to target. We need to catch them young – get in there early and tell them what options there are. It really is down to society.

We need to show them how maths can be used outside of school, how the curriculum applies to which areas of the world in terms of the career paths available, as well as allowing them to be creative.

Another barrier women face is confidence.

We’re our own worst critics. There are lots of girls who are really good at maths – they have the skills they need to become an engineer – but they don’t have the belief in themselves.

When I was promoted to associate director, I remember saying to my managing director: “I don’t think I’m ready”, but he encouraged me to go for it.

Men really are our allies and they’ve been fantastic with me and allowed me to grow, develop and shine.

One other thing that has a massive role to play in addressing the gender imbalance is social media.
Children are always on the internet so we need to show them how exciting and rewarding the construction and engineering industries can be – and we need to do so on their platforms.

There is still a long way to go before we reach true equality when it comes to gender representation, but sharing our experiences and coming up with new and innovative ideas to showcase the industry to young girls is a wonderful starting point.