Learning lessons about diversity in engineering

Hot on the heels of our recent International Women in Engineering Day event, Emilie Kellett, HR Business Partner, shares some of the key insights we have taken away from this valuable experience.

British Gypsum - INWED 2018

Last month, we invited a group of 11 women from the University of Leeds to join us at our Barrow plant.  Our reason for doing so was simple: we’re on a mission to encourage more women to choose engineering as a career and we wanted to understand the barriers that stand in the way of that. What better way to get under the skin of this important issue than hearing the views of the next generation of women engineers?

The students that joined us were all studying engineering related subjects and came from a wide variety of backgrounds, giving us a broad range of perspectives. Yet they all agreed that – despite significant changes in attitude over recent years – the misconception that engineering is a man’s domain still exists. On a positive note however, the enthusiasm and determination of the articulate and capable group of women that took part in the visit certainly points towards a brighter future where this misconception can finally be dismissed.

During the workshop sessions, the main consensus was that changing these attitudes requires a joined up approach from schools, parents and employers. Giving women and girls access to information about engineering careers from a very young age was highlighted as a key way of doing this. 

Leading by example, with positive and inspirational role models was also identified as a major motivating factor – and the students all agreed that one of the most valuable things they would take away from the day was the opportunity to talk to practicing women engineers. The students enjoyed meeting some of our current female apprentices and graduates as they shared their stories and answered any questions. 

Feedback from the day also found that the students were surprised by the sheer variety of roles that were available within the Engineering sector, with the plant tour in particular offering them a perspective that most of them hadn’t thought about before.
The group of women headed back to university feeling inspired and more knowledgeable of what a career in engineering might offer them in the future. 

Clearly there are still some challenges to be overcome, but we’re confident that the engineering sector will continue to offer a wide range of rewarding and fulfilling careers for people of all backgrounds.
British Gypsum - INWED 2018

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