Female engineer in factory

With women only making up around 16% of the UK engineering workforce – one of the lowest ratios in Europe – there is no question that more females need to be encouraged and incentivised to enter the engineering industry. It is a profession that can benefit hugely from having more women involved and engaged in it, developing products and technologies that are fully inclusive.

Find out more about what opportunities there are for women in engineering.

Why is it important to have women in engineering?

In the same way that the construction industry benefits from having greater diversity, so engineering needs more women. Not just for the skills and engineering talent they have, but for the experiences and insight women are able to bring to the teams they work in and the projects they work on. Engineering, like any industry, needs to reflect wider society, so to have more women engineers is incredibly important. The greater the range and diversity of employees an organisation has, the better work it will be able to produce and the more impact it will have on people’s lives.

Becoming a female engineer: educational opportunities

If anyone is interested in engineering as a career, the best place to begin is by studying STEM subjects at school. Science, maths and technology-related subjects will develop the technical and problem-solving skills that engineers need. Most engineers have degree qualifications, but you can also take an apprenticeship.

GCSE and A-Level engineering qualifications

For those aspiring to study engineering at university, or take an apprenticeship, it is important to get good grades in the STEM subjects at GCSE and A-Level. To start an engineering apprenticeship, you should have five GCSE passes at grades 9-4 (A*-C). Universities will ask for 3 A-Levels at grades BBB or above. Engineering is not usually offered at A-Level, but further education institutions will ask for A-Levels in Mathematics and at least one other subject in the Sciences, Computing, Maths or Design Technology. Physics and Further Maths are sometimes regarded as essential subjects to have passed at A-Level. Chemical engineering courses may ask for Chemistry.  

You will need to decide what branch of engineering you want to study when you reach university. Popular courses include mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering and chemical engineering.


Further engineering educational opportunities for women

Studying engineering at university is one of the key routes to a career in engineering. Students may also get the chance for an industry placement for a year as part of their course, bringing opportunities to get experience in the workplace. Women also have access to a range of scholarships, bursaries and inventive initiatives while they study for their degrees.

Here are just a few of the opportunities available:

The University of Warwick ‘Women in Engineering Programme’

To encourage greater diversity within engineering, the University of Warwick’s ‘Women in Engineering Programme’ provides scholarships to selected undergraduates. The programme makes awards of £2,000 per year for each year of a student’s course within the School of Engineering, as well as giving extra support, advice and mentoring. Applicants are selected on the basis of their supporting statement, an outstanding track record of academic performance and financial need.

The Royal Academy of Engineering ‘Engineering Leaders Scholarship’

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s ‘Engineering Leaders Scholarship’ helps ambitious undergraduates in engineering and related disciplines to undertake an accelerated personal development programme. The programme identifies students who have the potential to take on leadership roles within engineering. Successful applicants receive £5,000 for use over three years, towards career-related personal development activities, access to dedicated training and networking opportunities, mentoring support and invitations to exclusive Royal Academy of Engineering events.

Get it Made: Women in Engineering Grant

Get It Made is a manufacturing company which offers a grant worth £5,000 to female-led engineering, design or technology businesses. The grant is only available to female-founded or led organisations employing 10 or fewer staff and helps businesses scale up a project or develop a product. The successful grant winner will benefit from the support and expertise of the Get It Made team and is designed to encourage engineering entrepreneurship from women.

What are the best engineering fields for women?

Female engineer at work

There are no types of engineering that are ‘better’ for women than others. Each has its own particular requirements and demands different skill sets, and all are equally open to women as they are to men.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineers plan, design and manage large construction projects. This could include bridges, buildings, transport links and other major structures. Civil engineers use computer modelling software and data from surveys, tests and maps to create project blueprints. These plans advise contractors on the best course of action and help minimise environmental impact and risk. 

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineers get inside the machines that keep the world moving forward. It is engaged with the design, analysis and manufacturing of systems, dealing with aspects of mechanics like fluid dynamics, thermodynamics and materials science. Women who work in mechanical engineering do jobs such as project management, research and development and design engineering.

Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineers use their knowledge of maths, design, and the physical and social sciences to develop systems that optimise industrial processes. They follow industrial engineering principles to ensure the effective flow of systems, processes and operations, co-ordinating labour, materials, information and machines.

Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineers are not to be confused with electricians. People who work in electrical engineering have a deep understanding of integrated circuits and embedded systems, designing and developing electrical systems for buildings, transport systems and power distribution networks. Female electrical engineers might find themselves applying their skills in areas such as robotics, telecommunications and renewable energy.

Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers are essential in developing the products that are consumed by people as part of everyday life – from the food we eat to the detergents that clean our clothes. Chemical engineers increasingly work in the construction industry, developing solutions and processes for buildings and infrastructure projects, especially industrial or manufacturing plants.

Professional development opportunities for female engineers

Thanks to the efforts of the pioneers of female engineering, being a woman in engineering is a very different experience from what it once was. Organisations like the Women’s Engineering Society run networking events, talks, webinars, lectures and conferences, as well as the International Women in Engineering Day, held every year in June. They provide great opportunities to learn from colleagues and partner with mentors. There are also numerous professional development programmes available within the industry, run by organisations like the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Engineering Council, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Learn more about what a career in engineering could mean for you and how you can shape the future of female engineers. Discover more with Go Construct

Engineering has the power to change society and the way we live our lives. It is a career to be aspired to by everyone, and women should have the opportunity to reach their potential as engineers. Find out more about careers in engineering with these resources from Go Construct.