Covid-19 widens gender gap in engineering and technology career choices
Research into young people’s attitudes towards engineering and technology careers by EngineeringUK shows that diversity in STEM recruitment needs to be addressed as a priority.
The engineering sector has always had a huge gender gap, with women making up 12% of the engineering workforce. Now new research from EngineeringUK suggests that, for young people in particular, the Covid-19 pandemic is deepening gender differences when it comes to their career aspirations in engineering and technology.
The organisation asked 1,100 young people aged 11 to 19 about their attitudes and the degree to which their educational and career aspirations have been affected by the pandemic.
A large majority of survey participants believed engineering had an important role to play in fighting elements of the pandemic. However, the survey also revealed the gender gap is still very much prevalent when it comes to considering an engineering or technology career, as illustrated by the following responses:
Would you consider a career in....
Results suggest that the pandemic is deepening already existing gender differences in career aspirations, with more female than male respondents saying the pandemic has made them more likely to work in healthcare, but more male respondents saying it has increased their likeliness of choosing engineering or technology careers.
As a result of the pandemic I am more likely to choose a career in:
Results also revealed that 41% of girls/young women, compared with just 30% of boys/young men, said that the pandemic has made ‘having a positive impact on society’ more important to them when deciding on a career.
EngineeringUK chief executive Dr Hilary Leevers said about the findings:
“This survey shows that, now more than ever, we need to work together to encourage young people from groups underrepresented in engineering and technology to progress into the sector. The survey suggests that, unless we take action, gender disparity will increase. Gender imbalance is not the only diversity issue – we also need to address inequalities for young people from certain ethnic minority and low socio-economic backgrounds.
“STEM outreach and work experience needs to be targeted to the schools and students that need it most, including those that are underrepresented in the STEM and engineering workforce and those that are most affected by the pandemic. We need to give young people the opportunities they deserve and, in turn, we need them to ensure the diversity of thought for a thriving future workforce.
“We ask that organisations that have been resilient to the impact of the pandemic go above and beyond, supporting young people who may join their future workforce and that of the wider system – from their supply chain to the wider economy. I also encourage the government to be bold, ambitious and experimental in its support for the next generation and to treat diversity as a priority.”