As everybody knows, there remains a big gender gap in engineering. Only 22% of the workforce in our sector is female and, although the gap has been slowly narrowing, the perception of engineering as an industry 'for the boys' is taking time to shift. That low proportion of females in our sector is connected to the fact that there are also big gender gaps when it comes to take-up of STEM subjects at A Level, in apprenticeships and at degree level. Just 15.8% of engineering and technology undergraduates are female and nearly four times as many male students took Physics at A Level this year as did females. The proportion of engineering apprenticeships started by females, at just 3.8%, is scandalously low – we need to strengthen careers information, advice and guidance so that all young people are being encouraged to consider all of their post-GCSE options.
However, more girls took GCSE Mathematics this year than did boys, and almost as many girls took Physics as did boys. We need to ask ourselves, as a sector, why this is and what we can do to encourage more of those girls to go on to study Physics, Mathematics and other STEM subjects (including Engineering, where the gender gap is among the biggest at GCSE level). A colleague of mine did this just last week and at Semta we are always on the lookout for examples of good practice from employers and other groups to see how we can best enthuse girls about a career in our sector. If you know of an employer, individual or group doing good things in this area, please do get in touch – and perhaps even consider entering them into the diversity category of our Semta Skills Awards for 2017.