Promote diversity to increase diversity

It’s important to highlight the sheer diversity of engineering roles on offer to improve diversity in the industry, says Sonia Smith.

It’s a worrying statistic that women make up just nine per cent of engineers in the UK; in fact the Engineering UK 2016 report states that despite numerous campaigning initiatives over the past 30 years, there have been no significant advances in the diversity of the sector.

What has changed is the demand for skills within the industry. When I first started out, I pestered local engineering companies to employ me as a trainee engineer while I was doing my degree in civil engineering. Today, businesses are crying out for these skills.

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s research shows that we’ll need one million engineers by 2020 to keep the country at the forefront of engineering advances. Add this to the IET survey results that 84 per cent of young people have no idea how many different types of engineering jobs there are – and 70 per cent of their parents don’t know either – and it’s clear that as an industry, we’re not doing enough to promote the diversity of engineering to meet the demand. Without doing more to spread the news, how are we going to attract the brightest men and women into a career in engineering?

Promoting the diversity of engineering is something I’m incredibly passionate about. As one of the first signatories to WISE Ten Steps and developers of a returnship programme in partnership with ICE’s Civil Comeback initiative, diversity in engineering is also high on Amey’s agenda.

I’m part of Amey’s mentoring initiative to help support more women into senior roles and our business also encourages people to become STEM ambassadors and help young people understand the true diversity of engineering. For example, last month I visited local schools to tell them about my work, managing a team on some of the country’s most ground-breaking projects – like our award-winning cycle lights project in Liverpool.

With multiple awareness days throughout the year – like National Women in Engineering Day in June – there’s always an opportunity for more businesses and individuals to get out there and start talking about engineering as a diverse, highly rewarding career option.

Sonia Smith is a principal engineer, traffic and transportation, at Amey.