A new group dedicated to helping women build careers in the engineering sector has said “unconscious bias” training for engineers, and actively encouraging men to take paternity and parental leave, could help address its significant gender gap.
Launched to coincide with International Women's Day, the Women in Engineering Group (Weg) said other targeted steps including gender-balanced committees and interview panels, more diverse interviewee lists and a greater mix across boards and senior management in engineering companies would be effective in supporting the career progression of women engineers.
Group chairwoman Georgina Molloy said its goals were to encourage more women to enter engineering industry, to keep women in the profession and to attract women who may have left to come back.
Many female engineers worked in male-dominated environments such as offices, facilities and sites, and sometimes faced unconscious biases, she said. The Weg would “facilitate connections between women working in engineering roles, to knowledge-share, exchange ideas, and boost the number of women working in the engineering profession”.
She hopes the group, “which is also open to men to help us jointly tackle the gender gap”, could help women engineers create a clear pathway for progression so they remain in the industry, as well as attracting back those “who may have left to work in another more gender-balanced industries, or just taken a career break”.
Ms Molloy, a design engineer at Scaffold Design Ireland, added: "We need fresh thinking in how we tackle this gender gap. For example, by providing unconscious bias training for engineers and within companies, as well as actively encouraging men to take their entitlement of paternity and parental leave – so that family leave is not seen as something that only women avail of – could help hugely.
“We also believe men are an extremely important part of the solution and we welcome and encourage them to join our group and our events, because we cannot close the gap without them.”
Director general of Engineers Ireland Caroline Spillane said at a time when Ireland and the world was economically so challenged, it was hugely encouraging to see its recent barometer report on the sector showing as many as 71 per cent of female engineers were confident about job opportunities here, and 84 per cent saying engineering is a rewarding career choice.
This was a strong platform from which to launch Weg and build on this progress, she said. “We also hope that members of the group and successful engineers like Georgina can be role models for young women, inspiring them to study Stem subjects and to ultimately explore the rewarding careers the profession can offer.”