Once upon a time, the idea that women could make up a significant proportion of the engineers in Britain was a distant dream. It was a male industry, and certainly it’s likely that many talented women who studied and excelled at the core engineering subjects of physics and maths may have been put off entering the profession due to negative perceptions.
Nowadays, there are excellent opportunities for women to forge careers in the engineering and technology sectors, and there are major success stories in the UK economy, despite the recession. As that economy begins to grow again, hundreds of thousands of engineers are going to be needed over the next few years to help sustain the recovery and drive further growth.
Leading the way
The UK is considered globally as a world leader in engineering and technology – after all, where did the Industrial Revolution start? A report by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Royal Academy of Engineering in March 2015 estimated that engineering-related sectors made a contribution of around £280 billion in GVA – gross value added – in 2011. This was equivalent to 20% total GVA for the UK. Additionally, exports of goods and services in these sectors were valued at circa £239 billion in that year, and the growing economy means engineers will be in serious demand.
When you’re considering a career in engineering, you’ll discover that the sector welcomes women, and wants to see the skills they have developed from school and university help drive forward the industry. More and more women are choosing to work in technology and engineering, and because so many key sectors in the economy need highly skilled employees – aerospace, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, digital media, transport, construction and energy to name a few – there are attractive jobs and salaries on offer.
Girls at school who enjoy and are good at science have excellent opportunities to move onto an engineering course at university. Gone are the days when it was expected that women preferred to concentrate on arts subjects – for many today, science is the way ahead, and getting top-quality training will equip you for a whole range of options in engineering.
Engineering graduates have good prospects as the field of employment is so wide. You could take a look, for example, at a major UK firm such as Meggitt. The company is a global engineering group that specialises in smart subsystems and extreme environment components for the defence, energy and aerospace markets. Sir Nigel Rudd of Meggitt has recently been appointed chairman of the company. He has been highly successful in the manufacturing industry and is chairman of several major companies, including Heathrow Airport Holdings and BBA Aviation. His experience in the field of leadership means that you could find interesting and innovative employment there.
Look to the future
If you’re interested in engineering as a career, it’s worth talking to people in the business as well as careers advisors and universities themselves. Women are being encouraged more and more to take up engineering, and you could make a major contribution with your skills as well as make a very good living from the start.