Diversity leads to more innovative solutions, says the Royal Academy of Engineering
Royal Academy of Engineering calls for diversity boost as figures reveal just 16% of workforce are women
A severe lack of diversity within the automotive engineering sector, especially with regard to the representation of women, is affecting the sector’s ability to innovate as it faces up to new challenges and technologies.
That’s according to the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), which is pushing for more apprentices – from an array of backgrounds – to take up roles within the industry.
“We have a real gender issue in engineering,” RAE director Rhys Morgan told Autocar. Currently, just 16% of the engineering workforce are women. “There are just too few women going into engineering careers, and if you think they make up 50% of the population, that’s the difference we need to address.”
But it’s not just about getting more women into the workforce, Morgan said. “We also have to look at the broader aspects of diversity as well, such as different ethnic groups, and then socio-economic groups as well.”
Having a more diverse team isn’t simply a box-ticking exercise. It brings in “different ways of thinking and different ways of looking at a problem”, said Morgan.
“We can see that more diverse teams lead to better engineering outcomes. There are more innovative solutions.”
There have been some big engineering failures where there haven’t been diverse teams, Morgan pointed out – for example, crash test dummies, which are based on just the male physique and which didn’t consider pregnant women. “It really helps to make sure we are inclusive of all of society when we are conducting these engineering projects.”
Morgan cites the reputation of the industry, something that is determined by many at a young age, as an inhibitor of diversity.
“We need to highlight to young people, girls and boys, that there are many people like them working in engineering: they’re just not seeing them. It’s about making engineering role models much more visible,” said Morgan.
The RAE is looking to change this perception as part of its National Engineering Day, an annual event that falls on 1 November.
As well as looking to make the industry more diverse, the RAE is using the day to get more trainees into the workforce. It is predicted more than 78,000 new roles within automotive will be needed by 2040.
It follows a steady decline in the number of apprentices taking up positions, down 25% over the past five years.
“It is proving really damaging,” said Morgan.
“What we can clearly see is that if we are to meet our net zero goals, we have to have more engineers and technicians. In particular, if we are thinking about the electrification of vehicles, that’s a whole new cohort of technicians that we need to be developing – and apprenticeships are a key way of creating those key skills for our industry.”