The Key to Attracting Female Talent to Engineering

Key Takeaway:

  1. Avoid using masculine words on job adverts.
    Companies can advertise engineering positions to be more gender neutral - minimising the unconscious gender bias by limiting the use of 'masculine' words or words with gender bias.
    Read our How To Avoid Bias In Job Descriptions blog for specific pointers.
  2. Include female representatives in the hiring process.
    During interview processes, promote the conversation between female candidates and other females within the office. If there is not any, make sure to acknowledge that it is something the company is trying to change.
  3. Promote successful female stories.
    Share stories of women who are on the path to success within your company/organisation on all levels. This could be on LinkedIn, company pages, blog posts etc.
  4. Proactively refer more female engineers through your network.
    Build interconnected networks through the engineering space for fellow female engineers.

Women remain as scarce as ever in engineering and advanced manufacturing. By the latest estimates, women make up 13% of the engineering workforce in the United States. In the United Kingdom, this disproportionate narrative persists; only 12% of females represent the city's engineers, with Hong Kong coming shockingly behind the average at 8%.

The engineering paradox: these statistics reveal the state of stagnation over the last few decades. The numbers haven’t changed since 2001, in fact advanced manufacturing, the current estimate represents a decline of 1%.

This raises a fundamental question, why are less women drawn to pursue a path in the engineering field? One suggestion: they are less competitive.

Researchers suggest that gender differences in psychological traits contribute to gender occupational segregation. They argue that women are generally more risk averse and less competitive than men, which affects the “choice of field of study, which in turn affects future career choice.” The report cites a study from the Netherlands that found even after accounting for grades, perceived mathematical ability and socioeconomic background, gender differences in competitive can account for 20% of their subject choice.

However, a study by Muriel Niederle, a professor at Stanford, and Lise Vesterlund found that women were much less confident in their abilities, and this caused them to shy away from situations in which they would have to compete with others.

One way to combat this is to give women more encouragement. Among STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, engineering continues to have one of the largest rates of attrition and women have a higher turnover than men. Several reasons have been posed for this, including an inflexible and demanding work environment that made work-family balance difficult and stigma consciousness. Indeed, in a survey conducted by LVI Associates, 41% of engineering professionals say that a lack of accommodation for work-life balance and family is the main challenging to increase gender diversity.

Gender bias, whether incidental or deliberate, has a profound impact on attracting women into engineering roles. Dan Brook, Director of LVI Associates, comments that he has witnessed the effects first hand when it comes to recruiting female talent: “We had one individual, who got through to the final interview stage at a well-known engineering firm. She did her due diligence and saw that the board of directors were all men—so she pulled herself out of the process. She thought they wouldn’t suit her. This shows there’s a practical, as well as moral, reason to diversify your board and your company. Gender diversity, or a lack of it, has a real impact on talent acquisition. This is tangible.”

Building for the future

Across Asia, growth in women’s representation in engineering has been incremental at best. Beyond the role of women in engineering, from a regional perspective, gender imbalance is clearly exhibited when one takes a closer look at the numbers. According to McKinsey & Company’sThe Future of Women in Asia’s Workforce2019 study, women in Asia contribute about 36% of Asia’s GDP,which is in line with the global average. Women’s participation in the economy is still adversely affected and yet to reach its full potential on the journey to achieving numerical parity.

Mapping the road ahead then, governing bodies and organizations, whether in the form of fiscal measures, legislation, or programmatic change, must address persisting regional and global issues of the female labor force’s underrepresentation in engineering. Large-scale projects and inclusive planning of infrastructure can be a catalyst; fuelling governments to enact seismic change that goes beyond making hard, tangible assets more gender neutral.

There has been signs of progress in recent years though. In Singapore, government intervention is proving particularly effective, empowering change and ushering greater gender balance. In April last year, during the Committee of Supply, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced a series of initiatives aimed to strengthen engineering as a career path in the private or public sector. The Singapore Government’s focus to sharpen engineering capabilities has led to strong interest: 28% of engineering students in Singaporeaspire to work for the Singapore Government or a state-owned company upon graduation. The Singapore Government is strongly tied to innovation and dynamic transformation – adopting far-reaching gender equality and social inclusion policies that empowers public services and infrastructure.

When we look across the waters, Hong Kong also stands out for its achievements with narrowing the gender gap in the workplace. Across the region, women’s representation on boards has accelerated. At the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers (HKIE), for example, Ivy Kong is set to spearhead The Task Force on Women in Engineering; an organization that promotes female participation in the industry. HKIE is leading the charge; by raising the role of women and advancing their careers, the organization actively prevents the flow of female talent exiting the engineering space entirely.

Attracting and recruiting women into the profession is also a major victory that pushes the needle on diversity. Recruiters have a unique opportunity to influence the talent pipeline and embed diverse strategies from top to bottom. Kayleigh Regan, Senior Vice President at LVI Associates, shares insight into combating gender disparity in the recruitment process. “By eliminating gendered language in job adverts and engineering positions, firms can minimize unconscious bias and move the dial on diversity.”

At LVI Associates, there is a library of powerful resources that help move organizations under construction to create a balanced and talented workforce. Download our complimentary report that takes a deep dive into the engineering, manufacturing, transport, and logistics responses from Why Women Withdraw from the Recruitment Process.

Reach out to our industry leading female recruiters in the APAC engineering space:
Kayleigh Regan
Senior Vice President
Head of Infrastructure

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Mildred Lim
Vice President
Renewables, Transportation

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