More women in engineering “an absolute necessity” to deliver major transport projects

Nusrat Ghani, HS2 minister.

The government has called on women of all ages to consider a career in engineering, making clear that the transport industry must diversify to meet growing skills demands, with over 340,000 extra workers needed in the sector by 2033.

With women currently representing only 12% of the engineering workforce and 18% of the transport sector workforce, the government says that hiring more women is essential for the delivery of major transport infrastructure projects like HS2 and Heathrow expansion.

The call follows the convening of a roundtable on women in transport last week by the Department for Transport’s permanent secretary Bernadette Kelly, attended by senior female leaders in the sector. Representatives from the Royal Academy of Engineering, Ford, Heathrow Airport, Network Rail, the Women in Maritime Taskforce, and Virgin Atlantic were present. Key points of discussion included unconscious bias, challenging perceptions of “men in hard hats,” and parent policies.

Bernadette Kelly, permanent secretary at the Department of Transport, said: “We want to challenge traditional perceptions of engineering to ensure our transport industry has the skills it needs for the future. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s necessary for engineering and transport to thrive. We simply need more engineers and people in the industry as investment grows. Currently, we’re not making use of a huge section of society and that can’t continue. Building on progress and productive conversations with industry, I hope to help women across the country and of all ages see there are amazing careers in transport – from building site to boardroom.”

HS2 minister Nusrat Ghani said: “In this country, we build roads, rail track, we expand airports, and we need engineers from all corners of the country to help us deliver our ambitions. Engineers are also at the heart of developing greener and more accessible transport, using innovation to design a better world that works for everyone. The engineering and transport worlds have been too male for too long. A more diverse workforce will not only mean more opportunities for women, but will help the industry reach its potential.”

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “I’m delighted to see the Department for Transport working to support and encourage people from all backgrounds to pursue careers in engineering, particularly women and people from BAME backgrounds. From creativity to innovation, motivation, talent retention, health and safety and competitiveness, the evidence base is clear and growing regarding the benefits of diverse teams. The Royal Academy of Engineering is working closely with partners across the profession to ensure that the future engineering workforce truly reflects the society it serves.”

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