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IWD Series: Improving Gender Diversity in Engineering Organisations

IWD Series: Improving Gender Diversity in Engineering Organisations

16 days ago By Kelly Power
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It feels like we have spent years and years talking about the issue of gender equality in the engineering profession. People are still shocked at the statistics - as of 2019,  the engineering workforce is still only made up of 13% women and only half of these qualified females work in the industry.

It’s important that we still have days recognising and discussing this and the international women’s day events allow for this type of forum.

This year the Engineers Australia International Women’s Day Lunch was attended by 1100 in Melbourne. All attendees did a poll answering what they believe to be the 3 barriers of gender equality. The top 3 responses were:

 

  1. Embedded social attitudes
  2. Male dominated boards
  3. Workplace v Domestic demands

 

Can engineering employers really make better hiring decisions to improve gender diversity in their organisation?

From my experience the answer is yes… and no.  

The issue of gender equality is not just an organisational issue, its one facing the entire profession. With the profession at a low statistical percentage of women, it's difficult for organisations to improve these statistics internally. 

The contribution that a diverse workforce makes to organisational effectiveness is well-documented including, staff retention and attraction, corporate reputation, improved productivity and happier work environment.

More importantly as a profession, Engineers main obligation isn’t just to their employer, clients or shareholders - it is to the community. If the community is not equally represented, how can it be delivering to the best standard and how can innovation and technology advance to meet the needs of everyone in the community? There is a great need to foster an environment of diversity which encourages diversity of thought.

 

So, what can employers do to lead the way when it comes to creating a shift in the statistics?  

  • Conscious communication: Correct language can encourage greater attraction and participation in the workplace. Consider the connotation of words in email communication, on job advertisements and in marketing and branding initiatives. 

 

  • Education: Speaking to the younger generation about what engineering is and changing the perception by working with schools and universities. “You can’t be what you can’t see”

 

  • Flexible working options for both parents: Reduce the pressure placed on women to take longer breaks from work and share parenting responsibilities equally.

 

  • Make conscious hiring decisions: Recognise your own bias, it is known that that we all are hiring based of who we like (usually someone very similar to ourselves)  

 

  • Implementing targets: Numbers and statistics don’t lie and should be utilised in diversity strategies to hold people & organisations accountable

 

 

As a company, Design & Build are committed to driving diversity and equality across Australia’s built environment and aim to do this by supporting in their careers and promoting equal job opportunities for women at all stages in their careers.

As well as this, we are also dedicated to driving our own in-house diversity and equality policy. We are proud to house a 60% female lead company who work with and have built successful relationships with various male dominated construction, engineering and property companies.

 

Overall, I believe we need to recognise that this will take time to foster a diverse pipeline of future engineers but its important that active measures are considered to support sustainability of the profession as well as meeting organizational objectives.

 

About Kelly:

Kelly has the combined experience of 8 years’ experience as a recruitment consultant in the engineering and construction industry and 3 years’ experience working with Engineers Australia as a Client Manager supporting over 200 engineering executives and managers with capability & competency of their engineering teams.

If you’d like to have a further discussion about support for your organisation, please contact Kelly on 03 8535 3100 / 0412 747 198 / kpower@designandbuild.com.au