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The Telegraph: The industry move for gender equality

"We are committed to developing a diverse workforce and inspiring more women into engineering," says managing director of ETL Systems, Ian Hilditch.


ETL featured in the Telegraph NECR Show supplement

Above: ETL & others featured in the NECR show supplement in the Telegraph on 22/11/17. An excerpt taken from the Telegraph - full article below.


As the sector seeks to fill the skills gap and create a more diverse workforce, the demand for women engineering graduates is higher than ever, as Chris Moss discovers.

While no one should be blasé about the need for industry to educate and recruit more women into engineering, in recent years a multi-pronged approach has started to deliver some positive results. The key thing is to locate the exact nature of the challenge, says Tracey Hutchinson, head of the Technology Faculty at Derby College - which brings together engineering, construction and motor vehicle engineering.

"We are specifically addressing why construction degree courses are not attracting students from a range of backgrounds. Currently, there are low numbers of women, people from disadvantaged backgrounds, ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities represented on these degree courses. We need to find out why that is the case and what we and the industry can do to address that."

Through its BRIDGE Project - a national HEFCE-funded project with Gateshead College and Northumbria University - the college works with school pupils, potential students, current students and employers to bring greater diversity into professional construction qualifications and apprenticeships. The focus so far has been on working with employers to investigate unconscious bias. Proactive schemes have helped the college make significant in-roads in the recruitment of women and girls into further education. In the past academic year its engineering academy - based at its flagship Roundhouse technical campus and the purpose-built Ilkeston campus - included 92 female learners. The construction academy included another 40 female learners.

"We have proactively recruited female teachers as positive role models to students with an increase of 14 per cent in the past two years" says Ms Hutchinson.

"Dedicated Females into Engineering and Construction informative evenings are held every year to highlight the career opportunities available to women and girls in the sectors".

These range from school pupils being invited into the brick workshops for taster session to activities organised in partnership with STEM ambassadors from Rolls-Royce. Key females from local and regional rail, engineering and construction companies have given keynote speeches to students at sector-specific events.

"Construction and engineering are the backbone of our local and regional economies, and it is therefore vitally important that we support employers to tackle current and future skills shortages by achieving gender-equal workplaces. By highlighting leading women as positive role models and the contribution that they make to these industries, we hope to inspire more young women to follow their lead."

FM Global is a mutual insurance company specialising in providing loss-prevention service, primarily to large corporations in a number of sectors including pharmaceutical, chemical, food and beverage, mining and power generation. The firm sees engineering services as one of the key differentiators of its insurance model.

"We believe that most losses can be prevented and unlike companies that use actuaries to assess risk, we have more than 1,800 loss-prevention field engineers that visit our clients' facilities," says Vandira Padua, engineering specialist at FM Global.

As an expansion of a partnership with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), in 2015 the firm has created the SWE Ambassador Program. Padua is one of 19 women engineers (the ambassadors) who visit local schools and universities, and attend career conferences and events to encourage more young women to pursue engineering.

"We're mindful that the proportion of female engineering graduates is low and our aim is to do better" she says.

In the past 12 months, 30 per cent of the engineers that were hired were women, as against a sector average of 16.8 per cent of women graduating from engineering every year.

"Our recruitment programme is moving in the right direction" says Ms Padua.

Hereford-based ETL Systems designs and manufactures radio frequency equipment for satellite ground stations and other microwave users. It's a sector that has long been dominated by male engineers. ETL is responding by looking to capture the aspirations of women interested in working in the sector.

"We are committed to developing a diverse workforce and inspiring more women into engineering," says managing director Ian Hilditch.

The company has women engineers working in roles such as CAD technician, technical author and administrator. Currently, 35 per cent of the workforce is women and the company's US operations are headed by a female VP in sales, Susan Saadat. She holds a master's degree in Electrical Engineering, is a member of the Leadership Foundry for Women in Technology and has been a member of the board of directors for Women in Aerospace. Mr Hilditch says the next step is to grow a relationship with further educators.

"We're a sponsor of Hereford University and have been working with them to shape the curriculum, teaching and the talent we require. In 2020 it will be welcoming its first engineering and science undergraduates. One of their key targets is to boost the number of female engineering graduates."