Thursday, July 28, 2016

BESA steps up support for women in engineering

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has become a corporate sponsor of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES).

This follows the Association’s backing for this year’s National Women in Engineering Day (NWED), which was organised by the Society and, as well as grabbing national news headlines, led to the publication of the UK’s first list of the ‘Top 50 Women in Engineering’; 350 school events encouraging girls to choose engineering careers; and 200 other national events promoting women in engineering.

BESA has called for the engineering industry as a whole, and building engineering in particular, urgently to address its lack of gender diversity to avoid serious, long-term economic harm.

Currently, just 9% of registered UK engineers are female compared to 18% in Spain, 20% in Italy and 26% in Sweden.  Out of every 100 people on construction sites just one is a woman and the UK sits 28th out of 28 in the EU league table for numbers of women in engineering.

“These statistics are astonishing; particularly for an industry with a skills shortage,” said BESA chief executive Paul McLaughlin. “We need to work much harder at getting the message over to women and young girls that engineering offers superb career prospects and the opportunity to improve society by contributing to amazing projects that enhance people’s lives; help reduce environmental damage; and reduce energy and resource waste.


“We also need to impress on employers that the modern engineering environment is extremely well suited to females,” said Mr McLaughlin. “If we don’t succeed in our efforts to recruit more female engineers, the industry will simply not have the pool of talent it needs to deliver all of its projects to the required standard.”

Around 65% of engineering employers believe a shortage of engineers in the UK is a threat to their business and companies are 15% more likely to perform better if they are gender diverse, according to research carried out by WES.

30% of the staff at world famous engineering consultancy Arup are women, but the company’s board member Dervilla Mitchell said the industry as a whole was facing a crisis. “Lack of women in the industry is exacerbating an already acute talent shortage…creating a social and business problem,” she said.

New BESA President Malcolm Thomson has signed up to the WES mentoring programme that helps young women considering or embarking on a career in engineering and he is exhorting other member companies to follow suit.

“It is absolutely crazy that we are, in effect, recruiting from just half of the available workforce,” said Mr Thomson. “There are amazing career opportunities for women and girls in our industry, but gender stereotypes still hold sway and, as a result, our businesses are missing out.”

The Association is promoting the business and social benefits of diversity – including improving the balance of gender, ethnicity, physical and mental disability and sexual orientation – to all member companies and is encouraging them to review their recruitment policies with the aim of broadening the range of talent they can attract into the sector.  BESA’s training department is developing a support scheme for its members and aims to provide them with specialist diversity training.

The Association is also organising a pan-industry conference on diversity on October 25 at London South Bank University. For more details please visit our events page.   

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