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IET’s first female president urges firms to recruit more women

Naomi Climer, the first female president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), is at the vanguard of transforming the male-dominated world of engineering. To reach a level playing field, and plug the vast skills gap, she is urging firms to recruit more women into engineering roles.

Female engineering recruitment

What better role model for aspiring young female engineers than Naomi Climer? After becoming an engineer in 1987 (ironically thanks to a BBC drive to encourage more women to join the profession), Climer worked her way to top jobs at ITVdigital and Sony Europe before smashing through the industry's glass ceiling to take on the IET presidency.

Now she is urging engineering firms to recruit more women to balance the gender divide that she herself has overcome. A move that in itself would access a woefully untapped pool of talent and go a long way towards plugging the shortfall of nearly two million new engineers needed over the coming decade.

“In the past, most professions – including medicine and engineering – were predominately male domains,” Climer told The Guardian. “Today many have been transformed and employ large numbers of women. For example, jobs in medicine are now divided fairly evenly between the sexes.

By contrast, engineering has remained stubbornly stuck in the past. Men still hold down 94% of jobs. That is simply not acceptable. Indeed, it is harmful. We cannot hope to recruit the numbers of engineers we need in the near future if we are effectively excluding half the population from taking part

Engineering will give you work wherever you want

In Climer's opinion, the industry needs to do better at promoting the multi-faceted opportunities that a career in engineering offers. “What so many young people don’t realise is that engineering will give you work wherever you want. You could work with food, chemicals, machines, electronics, bridges or railways or design software. It is an amazing range. Young people need to be made aware of that,” she said.

She added that engineering workforces need to be representative to solve modern issues. She said: “In any case, the more mixed is the membership of any team – whether that is in terms of gender or age or class – the better it is at coming up with solutions to problems, and engineers are by definition problem-solvers. So again it makes it important to get as many women involved as possible.

There is no single solution. However, for a start, we need to make it clear just how widespread the problem is: major companies should publish precise figures about the exact proportion of women they have in their workforces. That might at least getting them thinking about where they are going wrong

For more information visit www.theiet.org.

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