Gender disparity in engineering

This briefing was published in July 2018, meaning that for some of the analysis more up-to-date data is available. Most notably, analysis of data from the Labour Force Survey Q3 2020*, shows that the 14.5% of those working in engineering are female (compared to 12% reported in the original briefing).

The proportion of women has increased over time both proportionally and in absolute numbers, outpacing the rate seen in the wider workforce. A more detailed analysis will be included in research due for publication in autumn 2021, but comparison with 2016 data points to a 25.7% increase in women in engineering occupations (compared to a 4.6% in the overall workforce). The number of women working in engineering occupations has risen from 721,586 in Q2 of 2016 to 906,785 in Q3 of 2020.

* Data is collected from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) with a sample of 40,000 responding UK households and 100,000 individuals per quarter, intended to be representative of the entire population. In 2020, the administration of the LFS changed from face-to-face interviewing to telephone only data collection due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is currently investigating the effects of this change, and exploring ways to account for any underrepresented groups. Therefore, estimates for 2020 may be subject to future change.

EngineeringUK has published a research briefing on female underrepresentation in the industry (July 2018). Despite efforts to address the imbalance, the proportion of women working in engineering falls below the proportions for the workforce generally. This disparity is largely due to girls dropping out of the educational pipeline at every decision point, despite generally performing better than boys in STEM subjects at school.

Gender disparity in engineering builds on the data and analysis contained within the Engineering UK 2018 state of engineering report and gives an overview of female progression along the STEM skills pipeline through education as well as women in the engineering workforce. It examines the underlying reasons for female underrepresentation and looks at both the business case for and the barriers to getting more women in the industry.

Evidence shows gender differences in understanding of and interest in engineering as well as perceptions of self-efficacy and identity are likely to be key factors when making subject and career choices. Girls are not only less knowledgeable about engineering and how to become an engineer, but also less likely to seek careers advice from others.

Only 60% of girls aged 11 to 14 think they could become an engineer if they wanted to, compared to 72% of boys. This drops to 53% in the 16 to 19 age range, where only a quarter of girls say they would ever consider a career in engineering.

The 'Gender disparity in engineering' briefing contains inputs from Cummins, UCL and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

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