Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Call for female engineer quotas

A leading engineer has urged employers to consider introducing quotas to increase the number of female engineers.

The president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Naomi Climer (pictured) has said that quotas could be one of the measures employers could use to increase diversity in the profession. Currently only one in 10 engineers is female. Before becoming president of the IET, Climer was president of Sony Media Cloud Services.

The IET has been working with professionals’ trade union Prospect to produce recommendations for encouraging women into the sector. These include developing recruitment guidance and promoting and retaining more women in science, technology and engineering roles. It is also working with the government and employers to establish an all-party parliamentary group for women working in these professions.

Climer said: “Despite the best efforts, there has been little progress in attracting more women into engineering over the past few decades, so I feel that the time is right to force action through the use of quotas.

“Diversity is good for the bottom line because mixed teams, whether of race, gender or age are naturally more creative and therefore better able to come up with solutions for the problems engineers face. So, it’s frustrating and disappointing that the sector’s glaring gender disparity has not been fixed.

“If there was just one issue, we would have fixed it by now, but there are just so many little parts that we need to fix. It is everything from the subtle ways that boys and girls are treated differently from birth that lead them in different directions. It’s down to the information that the decision makers they turn to – parents and teachers – have about engineering.  There is also the image and perception that many people have of engineering in this country.

“I will be working hard to highlight just how creative, exciting and diverse an engineering career is. It gives you the opportunity to do something life- or world-changing. But there is a big job to do to increase public understanding of the important role engineering plays in our daily lives and get more young people, particularly girls, excited about the possibilities of an engineering career.”

The call comes a year after 29 of the UK’s leading engineering, manufacturing, science and technology firms signed up to a 10 point plan to improve the retention and development of female employees.

The 10 point plan was jointly developed by industry members and partners of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) Campaign to give companies a clear and measurable set of objectives to address gender imbalances in the sector, although it did not go as far as suggesting quotas.

Readers' comments (5)

  • As far as I am aware there is a lack of engineering graduates full stop, of either sex. Therefore, as an industry we ought to be doing more to engage with young people and in schools to encourage university and apprentice applications in engineering. It is only if we target this area will it be able to trickle up the chain into the workplace. If a quota rule is brought in it, it will go in the face of equal opportunities and selection of the best candidate for each role.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Is this not sexual discrimination? Yes, encourage females into the profession, absolutely, but ultimately they must be hired on merit and not on gender to meet a quota. If the better candidate on the day is male then he should be hired and vice versa. Quotas have no place in my opinion.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Paul McCormick

    Diversity is important and we want any company to ideally have a make-up of employees that emulates society, or a client. However, quotas in the UK is not in my opinion the right route and we need to improve diversity through engagement of all minorities under-represented in civil engineering at a much earlier age, we need better mentoring and support for these people to stay and be developed in our profession; and unconscious bias training and development of our core people.
    I don't see many calls for quotas in hairdressing or nursing to encourage more males to enter these professions which are equally un-diverse and likewise as important as civil engineering……..although it hurts me to conclude this.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I read this as bit of a confusing argument as Naomi Climer on one hand is saying "the time is right to force action through the use of quotas" but then goes on to say the actual problem is how to "increase public understanding of the important role engineering plays in our daily lives and get more young people, particularly girls, excited about the possibilities of an engineering career". I'm not sure how quotas would solve this problem? And the article doesn't go on to give any suggestions.
    Wouldn't it be better to set targets around interaction with school children and their parents and teachers? However we need to accept that for any action now on this unfortunately we won't see the output for a number of years until these students leave college or university.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I don't think that quotas will solve the diversity issue within engineering.
    Those employers who recognise the value of diverse teams do not need them. Those who do not will resent having people assigned to their workforce and will not retain their quota of staff, no one wants to work where their presence is not valued or even welcome.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.