8th of March 2019 was International Women’s Day (IWD) and Celtic Anglian Water Process Engineer Clionadh Williams is calling on Irish companies to play their part in encouraging more women to enter a career in engineering.
This theme of this year’s IWD #Balanceforbetter highlights that gender balance drives a better working world. The statistics on women in engineering in Ireland demonstrate that there is a long way to go before balance will be achieved.
Last year’s Engineers Ireland report found that just 16% of engineering graduates in Ireland are female and that 12% of engineering professionals are women. The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, with less than 10%, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30%.
Many readers will have seen evidence of the gender gap in Irish engineering in their workplaces and will recognise that such a situation is simply not sustainable. Having a better balance of women in engineering will be essential if our industries are to remain competitive on a global stage. Greater diversity in the workforce also improves the performance of companies, and it is estimated that companies that achieve more balance in gender are 15% more likely to perform better.
Ms Williams says that the key to getting more women into the engineering profession is companies engaging students early on in their degrees. She suggests that prospective employers should be communicating potential career opportunities to female students in their first or second year of study. By third year, students are beginning to get a steer in terms of the career direction they may take and by graduation it’s almost too late to start engaging.
Ms Williams herself undertook an internship with Celtic Anglian Water in her third year of study, which eventually led to full-time employment on graduation.
It is also worth remembering that not all potential engineers are studying engineering degrees. Ms Williams graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science & Health) at Dublin City University in 2015 and says that 60% of her cohorts were female, but the vast majority went into non-engineer professions such as occupational health & safety.
Ms Williams said:
“My internship with Celtic Anglian Water was a life-changing opportunity and I probably would not have ended up as an engineer without that experience.
“If Irish companies want to improve the gender balance on their engineering teams, they should be communicating potential career opportunities to female students not only at school, but also into college and university.
“If we are to close the skills gap and continue to grow our economy, we need a skilled engineering workforce and that means tapping into every potential talent pool.”
Ms Williams gives dozens of presentations on careers in engineering to colleges, secondary schools and primary schools each year.
At these presentations, she urges girls and young women to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, and makes them aware of the employment opportunities and career potential that engineering offers.
Celtic Anglian Water has seen an increase of enquiries about internships from young female students as a direct result of this engagement.