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EmploymentWomen's work: Challenging perceptions of women in engineering

Women’s work: Challenging perceptions of women in engineering

“You don’t look like an engineer”, catcalling on worksites or being mistaken for administration staff are just a few of the statements faced by female engineers.

With issues still prevalent around everyday sexism, and the proportion of women working in engineering decreasing in the past year, it’s clear that the industry still has a way to go.

Ahead of International Women in Engineering Day (on Sunday), new workforce data released by Engineering UK, shows the proportion of women working in engineering and technology roles has declined in the past year from 16.5% to 15.7%. In contrast, women make up more than half of the rest of the UK workforce (56.1%).

Rachel Fitzpatrick (pictured) almost left the industry two years ago due to the misogynistic culture she was facing on a daily basis, but found a new start and better fit in her role at Harley Haddow.

She acknowledges that there has been change since the beginning of her career, but feels the industry still has a long way to go before it is a welcoming and comfortable environment for female engineers.

She said: “I feel there is a stigma around women in engineering. That we should look or talk a certain way which is simply a load of rubbish. I have been told countless times that I ‘don’t look like an engineer. During a lecture at University, I was told by a mature student that women don’t have a work ethic and are not willing to work overtime – a fact I wish someone had told me!’.

“I understand that the industry is really trying to push for equality, but this can also unfortunately result in some small-minded people claiming that jobs are going to people just to fit this new ‘inclusivity and diversity’ mantra.

“For a woman to make it through the education system and into a role in engineering, the reality is she has already had to fight an uphill battle along the way, and the fact that we are still there and wanting to work in the industry is testament to our drive and resolve. This in itself is a huge skill and asset, and it is this that is forgotten by those that say women are being gifted jobs without earning it. Yes, we are women in engineering but at the end of the day we are all engineers and should be treated the same as any male engineer.”

Hayley McArthur has been with Harley Haddow for over a year and found her route into engineering thanks to a Physics teacher at school encouraging her to attend a women’s engineering day.

The 23 year old, who works in the consultancy’s Glasgow office, said: “What I couldn’t understand was why it was woman only, so I asked the question to be told that there weren’t enough woman engineers. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to change that.

“Working in the industry, you do encounter old fashioned people or the stereotypes who can’t quite grasp that woman can be engineers. It’s not always ignorance, sometimes people are just taken aback and don’t expect it. I’ve often been mistaken for the “admin”, and there is often the misconception that women are limited compared to things a male could do.”

Harley Haddow is currently recruiting for a number of roles across the business in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Helen Greaney
Helen Greaney
I'm a journalist with more than 18 years' experience on local, regional and national newspapers, as well as PR and digital marketing. Crime and the courts is my specialist area but I'm also keen to hear your stories concerning Manchester and the greater North West region.
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