Engineers in front of an engine

Only 7 per cent of professional engineers in the UK are women

Monty Rakusen/Getty

As the cradle of the industrial revolution and a world leader in modern engineering, the UK has one of the world’s greatest records of invention and export in this field.

And yet, in the 21st century, only 7 per cent of my professional engineering colleagues are women. That’s a lamentable figure. Why is there such an apparent lack of interest from half of society? Could it be sexism within the industry? A perceived glass ceiling? Or social attitudes?

In more than 40 years in engineering and as the Royal Academy of Engineering’s first female president, I have been lucky enough not to have experienced any of those barriers. But I do see a considerable gap in the UK between the perception and the fascinating reality of engineering, a gap that may contribute to a lack of interest among young women.

The result is that 7 per cent figure, way behind many countries. To dig into what’s going on, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, which honours the world’s best engineers, commissioned a report on attitudes.

Called Create the Future, it indicates that, in the UK, female interest in the subject stands at just 28 per cent. This pales in comparison with emerging economies such as India and China which scored 85 per cent and 74 per cent respectively.

In India, 30 per cent of respondents saw engineering as a career for women, compared with just 10 per cent in the UK. This is holding back …

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