International Women in Engineering Day – why men and women need to work together to address gender imbalance

In our penultimate blog of the week ahead of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) on Saturday, director David Featherstone discusses why it’s important that men and women work together to address the gender imbalance in the industry.

In the UK there’s roughly a 50:50 split of men and women working, so it’s difficult to believe females only make up less than 11 per cent of the engineering workforce.

Engineering and construction are some of the last mainstays of male-dominated workplaces, and a good starting place to modernise and adapt the industry is to accept that women have a place in engineering – and they need male allies.

On our website this week, we’ve been celebrating some of our fantastic female employees and dedicated our blog to INWED to highlight the incredible careers within engineering. Our aim? To hopefully encourage more women into the industry.

We started out by talking to energy and sustainability engineer Charu Gupta, whose five-year-old daughter took part in a “draw an engineer” competition. The following day, her colleague in Birmingham Jane Goodman shared her 20 years in the property industry – and said there is still a long way to go before we reach true equality when it comes to gender representation.

On Wednesday, Jo Jones – who recently became the first woman in the business to take on the associate director role – attended Pick Everard’s INWED Roundtable and wrote about her experience.

Here at BSD, we are doing all we can to eliminate the stigma attached to construction and engineering being a ‘man’s job’. Promotions at BSD aren’t gender specific – people shouldn’t be judged on their gender, but rather their abilities and dedication to the job.

Engineering is a great career path – it’s not all about being on a building site in a hard hat. We need to educate people on the opportunities available to them – there really is an element of engineering for everyone – because development and infrastructure is important for the whole country.

It’s particularly important at the moment, as we continue to compete for a place in a globalised world – our output needs to match our foreign neighbours now more than ever.

Not only do engineers get to be creative through design, they also get to be analytical, with problem solving, maths and practical application being part of the daily job.

While architects design how a building is going to look, engineers make the “inside” facilities – from lighting and heating to fire and security systems – work, fit and function.

In essence, building services engineers design the services that are needed to allow a structure to do what it has been designed to do. They work collaboratively with design teams to influence the shape of a building and to make it as sustainable as possible.

The skills needed – such as having an analytical mind, being a good communicator and having strong capabilities in IT – are not gender specific.

Because of this, I believe it’s women who will fill the construction and engineering skills gap eventually – as long as we start showing them the career paths that are available and re-educating people’s perceptions. It’s important that schools showcase what options are open to girls in order to fully support them and kick start their careers

Women have been underrepresented in the industry for too long and now it’s time for men – and women – to support more women to enter, remain and reach their potential in engineering. Together, we can be a successful and united team.