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Concern over falling numbers of female engineers in UK

Image: Monty Rakusen, via Getty Images

Mid-career women most likely to quit the profession

Engineering UK has raised the alarm over the number of women leaving the engineering workforce in the country.

The not-for-profit works mainly on encouraging young people to consider training for a career in engineering. But its annual analysis of the Office for National Statistics workforce figures focuses attention on established members of the profession.

Overall, there has been a surprise drop in the proportion of women working in engineering and technology in the UK, from 16.5 per cent to 15.7 per cent between 2022 and 2023.

That 0.8 per cent figure represents a reduction of 38,000 in the number of women working in the field; disturbingly, 29,000 of these were experienced workers aged between 35 and 44 years.

Lack of retraining

This trend was counterbalanced to some extent by an increase of 22,000 in the numbers of younger women in the 16 to 24 and 25 to 34 age groups working in the field, the report shows.

Engineering UK said these figures indicate that women are entering the workforce from education but fewer are going on to be retrained later.

Hilary Leevers, the chief executive of Engineering UK, said: “We are taking this small but significant decline very seriously.”

She encouraged the sector as a whole to “better understand why women are leaving and work harder to improve their retention”. This should include creating opportunities for those who have left the profession to return, she added.

“Having a diverse engineering sector ensures we are better equipped to address the world’s biggest problems,” she said.

Leevers called for the creation of government skills taskforces to ensure that retention becomes core to the business strategies of engineering and technology companies.