Why Encouraging Girls into STEM Could Help Bridge the Skills Gap in the Engineering Industry

In the fast-paced world of engineering, innovation serves as the driving force propelling us forward. However, amid this whirlwind of progress, a significant challenge looms large: the UK engineering sector faces a notable shortage of qualified individuals. The results of the 2021 Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) annual skills survey paint a stark picture – fewer recently employed engineers possess the necessary technical and soft skills to excel in their roles, accounting for less than 50% of the total recruitment efforts.


Enterprising companies, grappling with the daunting skills gap, are taking measures to bridge this divide by offering supplementary training and assistance to recent graduates and apprentices. As a result of this skills gap, the industry is suffering, and one pressing issue that has emerged is the lack of diversity in the hiring process. Shockingly, when surveyed about their plans to enhance gender diversity in the workplace, just a third of companies acknowledge doing so. Attracting more women to careers in engineering appears to be a straightforward solution to the skills gap in theory, but in practice, is it that simple?


The existing gender gap in STEM fields poses a significant challenge, especially in specific academic disciplines. For example, women represent only 16% of Bachelor’s degree earners in computer and information sciences, 21% in Engineering and Engineering Technology, 27% in Economics, and 38% in Physical Sciences. Despite equal opportunities, women’s enrolment in STEM courses has been declining. For instance, they comprise only 18% of new computer science degree recipients. This disparity is even more pronounced among Black or Hispanic students, with a mere 6.3% representation. Consequently, their prospects of entering the industry workforce are significantly limited.


Further complications arise when examining research conducted by Plan International UK. Their findings underscore the challenges faced by women and girls in pursuing leadership roles in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Alarmingly, almost half of girls surveyed do not believe that a senior leadership position in STEM is within their reach in the future. Additionally, a significant portion feels that they would not be taken seriously if they were to pursue a career in this sector. These sentiments are not unfounded when considering the stark underrepresentation of women in major tech companies. In these titan companies, women are in the minority. Specifically, at Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, the proportion of female staff is 45%, 37%, 34%, 33%, and 29% of their entire workforce, respectively. When it comes to leadership positions, these figures drop to 29%, 34%, 31%, 28%, and 26%, respectively. When this is the example publicly being set to young girls considering their career path, it’s no wonder that there is a challenge in getting young girls onto STEM paths.


The bottom line is that, despite what history tells us, women belong in STEM too, so how do you encourage young girls to get into STEM? Here are a few ways we see would be useful!


Show Them Real Examples of Successful Women in STEM.

Having a role model can make a world of difference to young girls considering a STEM pathway. Make these role models easily accessible so that they don’t have to search for them.


Show Them How STEM Impacts the World.

There is a general bias towards valuing careers like medicine and politics, where individuals can have a direct, positive influence on the well-being of others. However, the truth is that nearly every aspect of society relies on STEM findings and endeavours. Young girls should know that by pursuing a STEM career, they are contributing to their communities and the world.


Help Them Find/Offer Them Experience in STEM.

Sometimes STEM can seem daunting. Science and math courses in school can be challenging, leading students to question their suitability for STEM careers. Unfortunately, STEM classes in school often do not reflect the reality of working in STEM. Providing real-world STEM experiences for girls from a young age helps address these initial concerns.

Help Young Girls Narrow Down What They Want to Do in STEM.

STEM is a vast field with numerous opportunities for young girls, making it challenging for them to focus on a passion. The main issue is a lack of exposure or education on these opportunities. Girls need assistance in narrowing down their focus by exploring various careers and fields.


Help Them Develop Skills They Will Need.

STEM is rapidly evolving. Unfortunately, most secondary school education does not keep pace with these changes, leaving the majority of school leavers unprepared to meet the technical requirements needed to succeed in STEM.


In conclusion, addressing the gender gap in STEM fields is not just about achieving gender equality; it’s also about addressing the critical skills gap that the engineering sector faces. By encouraging and supporting more young girls to pursue STEM education and careers, we not only create a more diverse and inclusive workforce but also potentially fill the void of qualified and skilled professionals needed in the industry. By taking tangible steps like providing visible role models, showcasing the tangible impact of STEM in the real world and offering hands-on experiences, we can inspire and empower the next generation of female leaders.

If you’re struggling to find the skillsets you need in your team, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to help bridge the gap and foster a more diverse and dynamic workforce.


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