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    A Male Engineer's Survival Guide To Women In Engineering Day

    It’s National Women in Engineering Day. Why should you care as a male engineer?

    You are analytical. You accept evidence based arguments. Therefore you recognise there is a gender diversity problem.

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    Only 9% of the engineering workforce is female.(1) And only 6% of registered engineers and technicians (CEng, IEng, EngTech) are women.(2)Yet there is no fact based study to suggest that women are intellectually less capable of engineering.

    Is it because "Girls just don't like engineering? Or might there be barriers or constraints to women entering the industry that you haven't experienced as you aren't one?

    If leaders are accountable for change – and most engineering managers are men – then you recognise that fixing the diversity problem is a job mostly for men.

    If we really want to fix the diversity problem then, it follows that we must also tackle the difficulties men face in both identifying the reasons women don't enter or remain in the industry, and how they go about progressing change.

    Ok, so there may be an issue, but you're open-minded, you're not a chauvinist, you welcome women engineers. What could you even do about it? You're not part of the problem. Are you?

    Well, some of the things women report as issues are either caused by well-intentioned colleagues and policies, or dismissed as non-issues by uninterested male colleagues. Here's 10 ways to make sure that's not you!

    1. Don’t make us feel different.

    Even comments aimed at welcoming us “Thanks for coming to the meeting guys, and so nice to have a WOMAN on the team as well” still make us feel out of place and highlight our “different-ness”. Or emails to “Dear Gents (and Lady)” or “Guys AND girl”. Tip - “Dear all” works fine.

    2. Speak up against banter.

    Women don’t want to announce themselves as the “other” in the room, put their hand up and be “that woman” who stops the boys from having their fun. So they have two choices – put up with it or leave. So while it might make you briefly uncomfortable to be a bit of a spoilsport who speaks up about inappropriate jokes or laddish behaviour, if you don’t, who will?

    3. Mentor a woman.


    Females don’t need female mentors. We are not another species – and consistently connecting us up together can make us feel like a detached and separate community. Equally women can mentor male staff. An inspirational woman should be an inspiration to everyone, not just other women.

    Male leaders could often benefit from hearing the experiences of more junior women. Many companies have had great success with reverse mentoring - where Executives are mentored by a talented female about the career challenges facing ambitious women in their company.

    Equally, the women could do with a break- often there is a limited pool of senior-ish women, constantly called upon to mentor more junior female staff. The pressure and expectation on them to fulfil this role is above and beyond the demands made of their male peers.

    4. Don’t underestimate the importance of trivialities.

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    When your team t-shirt is only available in male sizes, when your long service award is a pair of engraved cufflinks, when there’s only one women’s toilet, when the PPE doesn’t fit. Each on their own easy to dismiss as not being worth the effort to fix. But maybe all these trivialities stack up to a death by a thousand cuts – a thousand gentle messages that all say “by the way, you don’t belong here”.

    5. Don’t assume women will pick up administrative and “caring” tasks.

    Often there is an assumption that the woman on the team will be the one looking after the work experience student, or be the STEM ambassador to schools. And they might – happily. But the assumption that they will is demeaning to them – and takes opportunities away from other staff who might also relish the chance. And as for any expectation of them taking minutes in meetings, and making travel bookings when they’re part of a group business trip? That’s just offensive.

    6. Acknowledge you or your hiring colleagues might suffer from unconscious bias.

    Most people do. Engineering managers often have firm ideas about the kind of person needed to do a job –or the way a job should be done. It’s normally based on how it’s been done successfully in the past. This makes sense – but it can inadvertently exclude people who do not fit the traditional profile from being considered fit for a role.

    Re-question your expectations of people in positions of leadership or management. Do they HAVE to be an assertive, alpha male type to be successful? Consider whether your requirements for promotion are really requirements to perform the job – or whether they are optional performance “styles”. Don’t expect women to “man up” to succeed in your organisation. Organisations benefit from different leadership styles. Be brave enough to take some risks with people. Somebody might not fit your historical mould for a position – but they might get even better results doing it differently.

    7. Refuse to talk on all-male panels.


    Check the other speakers with the organiser, and if there isn’t a woman – ask why not. Oh, and making the only woman on the panel the moderator is even worse. Also call organisers out on the idea that being a woman defines female engineers. Female speaking opportunities should be just as technical as those for their male counterparts– not just a conference organiser bringing up their gender stats by including an all-female panel talking about diversity and women’s issues. Coverage of women in tech is too often that female engineers are talked about in the context of being women, and men are talked about in the context of their work.

    8. Truly consider if there is an “Old boys’ club?”.

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    How are hot talents identified? Is it when a manager sees something of himself in a younger colleague? When he sees someone from his old University, who played for the same rugby team? Is it from camaraderie formed in the bar on a business trip, or in the pub after department five-a-side? Are the women in your department getting the same opportunities to be noticed?

    9. Lead by example.


    “Go-home-on-time day”, “Work-from-home day” to demonstrate the sky will not fall in. Make part-time and flexible working success stories visible through internal comms. Expanding your family? Congratulations! Make the most of your entitlement to shared parental leave- and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Equality cuts both ways – make sure you’re making the most of the opportunities available to you, both to enjoy your family and to demonstrate your equality.

    10. Work on your chat.

    It’s easy to fall into lazy conversation routines with your colleagues. “Did you watch the game last night?” then a few half-hearted comments about the ref being biased and who was left on the bench, before you all settle down to your work. It’s easy to inadvertently exclude female team members due to comfort on topics of conversation like football. Make a conscious effort to come up with a variety of interesting conversation topics, and actively involve female team members. It might even get your team really communicating and enjoying each other’s views.

    1. Skills & Demands from Industry - 2015 Survey, IET

    2. Engineering UK 2015: The State of Engineering