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#RaisingTheBar

21 June 2018

Kirsten Bodley
CEO
Women's Engineering Society (WES)

WES’ global celebration of women in engineering - International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is upon us again, and this year marks the fifth INWED and our second year of making the campaign a truly international recognition of female engineers across the world.

It seems a good time now to reflect on the events of the last year and to think about what has changed and whether we are any further forward in our aims to increase the proportion of females in engineering and other technical roles across allied sectors.

There have been many notable events throughout the year – 100 years ago (some) women were given the vote and to mark this, the Millicent Fawcett statue was erected opposite parliament (Dame Fawcett being one of the most influential feminists of the last 100 years and campaigner for women’s suffrage). More recently thousands of women took to the streets of our cities through processions to celebrate the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act and women’s right to vote.

The Gender Pay Gap has also been high profile and widely discussed, highlighting some fairly fundamental changes many organisations need to make to ensure their employees are all treated in a fair and equal way. One of the trends we really need to reverse is the gap widening for women from about the age of 40, which can largely be put down to them taking career breaks for caring responsibilities.

Tying in with this is our theme for INWED18, #RaisingTheBar. We should all embrace this approach to ‘raise the bar’ in our organisations, increasing not only the number of women in our engineering communities but also thinking about how we grow our diversity, innovation and creativity. We need a step change.

Our industries need to ensure we embrace workers from a wide range of talent pools and perhaps think a bit more broadly when we recruit. WES has recently been raising more awareness of the value ‘returners’ can bring to organisations and we encourage everyone to consider more innovative recruitment routes to give access to a more diverse workforce. There are a large number of experienced women (and men) who have a brilliant skills-set and invaluable experience but have those ‘uncomfortable’ gaps in their CVs that many companies consider hard to accept. A more diverse workforce equals a more exciting and forward-thinking organisation and will definitely show that you are ‘raising the bar’.

With WES’ own centenary next year we have been reflecting on what we have achieved in the last 100 years and looking ahead to the future. Last year we were pleased to see a small step change increase from the number of women who are professional engineers to 11%. A small but meaningful move in the right direction but one that needs to grow momentum to reach our own aim of 30by30 – that is 30% women in the engineering workforce by 2030! This will take us part way into our look forward to the next 100 years and where we would like to be by then. Looking at what we can and have already achieved, I think we can expect bright things but we all need to be pulling in the same direction to get there.

I hope everyone out there who is celebrating International Women in Engineering Day this year has a fantastic day, and those who are holding events have great success, and if just a few more women and girls are inspired to follow this as their career path we have made another small step towards changing the world!