Celebrating talent and a forward thinking culture, with women at the heart of itJune 22, 2023 News
It’s widely accepted that the underrepresentation of women in engineering is an issue that persists globally, and despite significant advancements in gender equality in various fields, engineering remains a predominantly male-dominated profession.
This lack of diversity deprives society of the potentially unique perspectives and talents that women can bring. It is essential to explore the factors contributing to this gender imbalance and propose actionable steps to promote inclusivity and achieve gender parity in engineering.
At JMS, we’re so proud to have our teams enhanced by women spread across both the engineering sectors we cover as well as the managerial aspects associated with running a SME. We continue to look for ways to harbour new talent, drive professional development for everyone and actively recruit into leadership and senior roles irrespective of gender. We’re also keen champions of emerging talent, with Megan Nicholson and Katherine Searle in our team, just two of our undergraduates bringing fresh perspectives and passion into JMS.
We talked to some of our female colleagues about the imbalance in the industry, and life at JMS, ahead of National Women in Engineering Day.
Is it really a ‘blue’ job?
From a young age, societal stereotypes and biases often shape perceptions of suitable career paths for boys and girls. Engineering has long been associated with the term ‘blue job,’ reinforcing the idea that it is a male-dominated field.
“I guess people just assume engineering is a ‘blue’ job, in the same way people assume nursing is a ‘pink’ job. And neither is right or wrong, they are societal assumptions based on misnomers about the demands of the job. Many women assume that structural engineering will mean they are stood outside on building sites in the pouring wind and rain. It’s actually really different. In fact, for us, the balance between getting out and about and working in an office on our craft, being creative and meticulous makes it an incredibly varied and engaging profession.” Meghan Nicholson, Undergraduate Engineer.
Breaking these stereotypes is crucial, and it starts with promoting awareness and education at all levels. Encouraging girls to explore STEM subjects, providing positive role models, and showcasing successful women engineers can help dispel misconceptions and inspire young girls to consider engineering as a viable career option.
It starts with education
Enhancing the representation of women in engineering requires focused efforts within educational institutions. Schools and universities should foster an inclusive learning environment that encourages girls to pursue STEM subjects and provides equal opportunities for their growth. Mentorship programmes can play a pivotal role in connecting female students with successful women engineers who can provide guidance, support, and career advice. By creating strong support networks, we can empower women to navigate the challenges often faced in male-dominated industries.
“Within my engineering course, there is a noticeable gender disparity, with roughly 50 male students and only 20 female students. I firmly believe that promoting engineering as a career option suitable for both genders should be emphasised in schools. This field offers abundant opportunities and demands a diverse range of skills and qualities to excel and achieve success at the highest level.”
Eleftheria Giouvanoglou, CAD Technician, said “When I did my studying, it was the only year when we were half women and half men, and it was recognised and talked about as a great success. But the years before and after were very different. What I do know is that I am so lucky to work with JMS, they are like my family. Regardless of whether we are men or women, we get treated with the respect we deserve here. Our experience and skills are recognised, and we are rewarded for it.”
Flexibility is key
Another crucial aspect in promoting gender equality in engineering is establishing flexible working practices that accommodate the needs of both men and women. Traditionally, rigid work schedules and long hours made it difficult for women to balance their professional aspirations with what was often, an unbalanced view of family responsibilities. However, times have changed and gender equality – whether related to maternity/paternity leave or school runs etc. can be reflected by implementing flexible working hours or additional days off such as the ‘Free Fridays’ that JMS has implemented over the past 5 years.
“The working arrangements just take the pressure off for everyone. It stops the rushing about and enables us all to strike a healthy work-life. It definitely helps to retain staff but also anyone at that stage of life where they have a family. Being around to let my teenage son in from school or be around for sports days, open afternoons and assemblies means you can focus at work and be a great employee, whilst also knowing you can be available when needed at home. It’s brilliant.” – Jo Kingshott, SAS Coordinator
A generational shift
“I definitely think it’s a generational thing’, says Lynne Pickering. ‘When I was growing up, I didn’t know any female engineers, but a lot of people would choose to go into engineering jobs because their fathers, uncles, grandfathers all took the same path. As more and more women get enticed and are successful in their roles, they too will inspire other females to take the same path. I think that’s why we will continue to see a rise across the industry over the coming years as more women get into leadership roles, inspiring the next generation.”
When JMS was launched, twenty-five years ago, there were more women on the payroll than men, and Anna-Maria Staines, Director, still sits toe to toe with her male counterparts today. However, it isn’t just Anna-Maria that is driving the inclusive environment at JMS, the whole Senior Leadership Team have always encouraged and been advocates of female employees, finding ways and means to empower them and give them the opportunities that enable them to thrive in their roles.
“It’s been part of our culture from the start, and something we are incredibly proud of at board level. Our team is like our family, and when you work in this way, it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, the respect levels are paramount and only serve to create an incredible working environment”, said Anna-Marie.
“I feel exceptionally proud of the team and the culture here. I love working with every member of staff. The women at JMS are so supportive, and truly embody our values as a business. I can’t thank them enough. Employing the right people in the right roles has always been our approach, regardless of gender, and the exceptional talent that we have here is testament to that.”
Underlining our commitment to workplace contentment, JMS has recently been shortlisted for the prestigious NCE (New Civil Engineer) ‘Best Place to Work Award.’ This distinguished nomination serves as a testament to our unwavering dedication to fostering a culture of staff wellbeing and innovation within the business.
This recognition further highlights our efforts in promoting a positive work atmosphere, encouraging collaboration, and nurturing a sense of belonging among our workforce.