How one industry leader is redressing engineering’s gender imbalance...
23 Jun 2020
As pressure builds on engineering and manufacturing companies to boost the number of females in the sector, Siemens is among those seeking to redress their traditional lack of representation…
With a 78 per cent male employee base in the UK, Siemens recognises there is an urgent need to attract women to the company and to engineering and manufacturing in general.
Its recent progress has been considerable: Siemens hired 40 per cent female graduates in 2019, compared to 29 per cent in 2018. In January 2020 from a total of 555 apprentices across all Siemens businesses in the UK, 96 were female, around 17 per cent, a slight reduction from previous years but a realistic indicator for the 2020/21 academic year.
Managing director, Siemens Digital Industries Brian Holliday, said: “The digital revolution in industry is an opportunity to build better balance. Although figures are improving, the UK still languishes amongst the lowest when it comes to the percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, yet our industry needs more than ever, the talent, skills and experience of women to create competitive advantage.”
The company has made job adverts more gender neutral, supported them with videos giving applicants an insight into the workplace.
Sarah Black-Smith is head of factory operations at Siemens’ Congleton factory in which produces 1 million drives and controls per year and employs 300.
Graduating from Loughborough University in 2004 with a BEng in Manufacturing Engineering and Management, Sarah went on to complete a Masters in Operations Excellence and worked on her placement year for Alstom in Lincoln.
“It was quite lucky really that six months into my placement at Alstom, the site was sold to Siemens in 2003. I was then sponsored through my final year and taken on by Siemens as a graduate.”
“The options in engineering are wide and varied, from mechanical and electrical and now there is convergence of internet technology and operational technology. Students aspiring to be engineers already come with knowledge of computing from school and this is an added bonus in the world of engineering.”
Black-Smith has recruited and mentored many graduates, interns and apprentices over the years and since the launch of the Congleton Junior Factory in 2014 has mentored many.
The options in engineering are wide and varied, from mechanical and electrical and now there is convergence of internet technology and operational technology
Sarah Black-Smith. head of factory operations, Siemens Congleton
Ashleigh Sumner joined the Siemens apprentice programme as part of its first cohort of trainees at the Congleton Junior Factory. While there, she completed her Higher National Certificate and then achieved a first-class honours degree in Control and Automation Engineering from Salford University in 2018. Six years on she is a product manufacturing engineer at Congleton.
Siemens has invested in initiatives like ‘Future Females’ which sponsors engineering scholarships and bursaries through The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Horizons bursary programme.
It also participates in the ‘SeeWomen’ interactive show attended last year by 1,000 schoolgirls across the country, with resources downloaded by 2.400 teachers. The programme has been re-branded to ‘SeeMe’ with a view to reaching diverse groups and encourage careers in STEM.
Holliday added: “The International Women in Engineering Day is a potent reminder that now is the time to ensure women are able to excel in workplaces across industry. Siemens supports this stance wholeheartedly.”
Photo: (l to r) Sarah Black-Smith and Ashleigh Sumner inside the Siemens Congleton factory