Engineering a route to success

Despite being acknowledged as a key sector in driving the UK’s economic success engineering has faced a significant skills shortage over recent years, with a marked disparity between the number of male and female recruits.

INWED – International Women in Engineering Day – sought to address this disparity by encouraging more girls and women to consider engineering as a career. The event was launched four years ago by the UK-based Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and has now gone global with the aims of inspiring, engaging and celebrating women in engineering.

According to WES, just 11% of the UK engineering workforce is female, the lowest percentage in Europe. Given that women represent almost 47% of the UK labour force arguably it should be higher.

Research suggests interventions should start at a young age, promoting STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) in primary education and encouraging more students – girls included – to continue with them through to university and beyond.

However, the proportion of young women studying engineering and physics has remained virtually static since 2012 and engineering UK data shows that while 50% of GCSE physics students are female, the proportion drops to 22% at A Level, and further to 16% for engineering and technology first degree entrants.

The British Board of Agrément has said it is very clear on the opportunities it offers and is proud to have a growing cohort of skilled female engineers and allied trades helping drive its business forward; of its 185-strong workforce, 58 of them are women, of which 19 are engineers and scientists.

One of them is Ramona Donnelly, who has risen through the ranks to become engineering operations manager at the BBA’s headquarters in Watford, Hertfordshire.

“Engineering excites me for many reasons because I enjoy finding out how things are made, analysing buildings from the construction point of view and I’m always curious about how new products are developed,” Ramona said. “But it is not easy. Great responsibility comes with being an engineer regardless of the field of expertise. The products that you work with – whether you design, develop, construct or assess – will eventually become products on which people’s lives depend on.

“I have a strong passion to go as far as I can in my career and I would love to be a role model for other women both in and out of the BBA.”