As the Australian engineering industry battles a tide of skill shortages, it is important to remember that there is an entire section of community that is being largely ignored by the mainstream - women.
According to Engineers Australia, just 16 per cent of the more than 9,500 engineering graduates per year are women. Additionally, this demographic only make up 11.2 per cent of the engineering labour force.
In a March media statement released in anticipation of this month's International Women's Day, Chair of Engineers Australia's Women in Engineering National Committee Nee Nee Ong explained that more support is necessary.
"We are significantly underutilising a key part of our highly skilled workforce. Engineering is a creative and intellectually challenging profession which offers a diverse and satisfying career for both men and women," she said.
Ms Ong went to say that female engineers are often lost to the industry due to blocked pathways and as such experience higher unemployment rates and are paid much less than their male counterparts.
"Governments, organisations, communities and individual engineers also have a role to play in promoting engineering careers to women," she said.
"It is vital to Australia's economic, productivity and growth agenda that young women see engineering as an exciting, viable and rewarding career option."
How can businesses support women engineers?
One of the first aspects to consider is to treat female engineers the same as their male counterparts. This means that throughout the recruitment process, employers should be comparing their skills, qualifications and knowledge rather than their gender.
According to a Gallup study, men and women bring different viewpoints, ideas and solutions to the table which leads to better problem solving and productivity. In fact, gender-diverse businesses experienced slightly higher revenue than those without.
Here are three tips for including female engineers in your workforce:
1) Create policies
Women are often drawn to roles where they can have the flexibility to raise children and look after them as they choose. This means offering part-time work where viable and enabling time off in lieu.
By creating an environment where everyone can work harmoniously and be able to have a good work/life balance, the business will be better off as a result.
2) Create a culture
The 'old boys' network' was rife in engineering for many years, but this can have a detrimental effect on female engineers coming through the system. Create leadership roles that mean all engineers have representation.
3) Create a standard
Businesses that recruit female engineers based on merit can set the standard for the industry moving forward. Regardless of whether it is a graduate role or executive role, Design & Construct can assist with your engineering recruitment needs.