The under-representation of women in Science, Technology and Engineering (STEM) remains a worrying trend globally. This gender disparity is particularly evident in Engineering where women make up only about 10% of the workforce in the UK, the lowest in Europe.
It is generally agreed that this imbalance stems from a lack of interest of young females in STEM. Yet, perhaps an even bigger problem is the seeming inability of the Engineering space to retain a good number of females who venture in the area.
Hence, beyond efforts made to improve the involvement of young females in Engineering, it has become necessary to make the workplace more appealing for female engineers. A good first step to achieving this is to kill gender stereotype in the workplace.
Thanks to many years of male dominance in engineering, it is very common for the technical skills of female engineers to be frequently questioned. Men tend to take on the intense part of a project while females are left to deal with the less demanding and unexciting stuff regardless of their skill level. This sad trend that often leave women feeling incompetent and unmotivated can be traced back to the social conditioning in our homes and schools.
According to this HBR survey, Rachel had this to say about her experience as an engineering intern. “One thing that really bugs me about being an intern and a young girl is that the people whom I work with don’t take me seriously. Not everyone does this, but a fair amount of the older men in my working environment treat me like I know nothing.”
Yet females maybe even more than their male counterparts, desire to have a strong sense of purpose in their career. This is why managers must put in extra work to change the culture of gender stereotyping that is typically present in the workplace. Female engineers should be given a chance to work on challenging projects that can help them improve their skills and boost their confidence.
Also, in an environment where female engineers constantly strive to prove themselves, It is not unusual for them to often doubt their own skills when faced with challenging technical tasks. It is, therefore, necessary that the system in the workplace supports women by providing frequent feedbacks without undue criticisms whilst also giving them room to stretch themselves and build confidence.
It is also important that organisations make deserving females visible in the workplace by putting them in leadership positions. This can be a great source of motivation for newer female employees who join the workforce --knowing that there are women at the helm who successfully combine their societal responsibilities as females with their careers, can help warm their psyche and help them feel at home. This is, in turn, will translate into better work performance and reduce the likelihood of losing more female engineers.
In the end, every business will benefit from having a fine mix of male and female employees-- gender diverse teams have been proven to perform better. Hence creating a conducive environment for females to thrive in the workplace should be a priority for every serious organisation.