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7 ways to invest in women in engineering

08 March 2024

On this International Women's Day, Manipal Academy’s Prachee Gupta calls on the industry to renew its commitment to gender equality.

7 ways to invest in women in engineering
On this International Women's Day, let’s renew our commitment to invest in women’s potential and advance gender equality

As women in the field of civil engineering, we’re no strangers to breaking barriers and defying expectations.

Despite our contributions and achievements, gender inequality is still a significant challenge in our industry.

There’s a lack of female role models, gender-based tasking, economic disparities such as pay gaps, and underrepresentation in leadership.

This has led to women being significantly underrepresented in this field and leaving the industry at a higher rate than their male colleagues.

According to ICE membership diversity statistics, 33% of female members at the ICE are professionally qualified, in comparison to 51% in the case of male members.

Of all ICE Fellows, 7% are women.

These statistics have been improving year on year but highlight the persistent gender inequality that exists within our profession and in careers guidance at schools.

The dial is shifting for women in fellowship

The driving force of the ICE Connects women in fellowship group is to encourage not just women, but all underrepresented groups, into fellowship.

This is to help represent a diverse spectrum of people and ideas at a senior level.

Find out more about ICE Connects

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is about investing in women to accelerate progress.

But what does that look like?

My family invested in my potential

To begin, I want to share my journey as a woman in civil engineering.

Hailing from a small town in India where traditional gender roles were the norm, my path to civil engineering wasn’t an ordinary one.

My father, a trailblazer in his own right, recognised the importance of education for women and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.

Thanks to his support, I became the first woman in my family to venture beyond our town and enroll in India's prestigious IIT Bombay for a degree in civil engineering.

Investing in opportunities to expand my horizons

The journey didn't end there. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to pursue further study in the United States.

Studying abroad not only broadened my academic horizons but also opened doors to opportunities I’d never imagined were possible.

After completing my education, I began my career at a prominent civil engineering consulting firm in Florida.

I was privileged to work in an inclusive environment that valued diversity.

With the support of my colleagues and mentorship from other women in leadership roles, I gained experience in various engineering and management positions across the US, UK, and UAE.

Invest in women’s safety

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is meant to ensure the safety of its wearer. But when it doesn’t fit properly, it can do the opposite.

Research has found that 59.6% of employers in the construction industry don’t provide PPE that fits women specifically. This has serious consequences on women’s health and safety.

Find out more

Gender inequality is holding the industry back – what can we do?

My journey is a testament to the transformative power of education, support, and determination for women in civil engineering.

But I’m also keenly aware that gender inequality continues to exist, holding back the progress of our profession and depriving us of the diverse perspectives that women bring.

Here’s how you can contribute to the collective effort to invest in women in the engineering community:

1. Research and data collection

  • Identify the root causes of gender inequality in engineering and academia.
  • Collect data to measure progress and develop evidence-based interventions.

2. Educate and empower

  • Support initiatives that provide women with access to quality training and opportunities in engineering-based skill development.

3. Amplify voices

4. Challenge stereotypes

  • Engage women in diverse range of engineering/management activities while eliminating gender stereotypes and gender-based task allocation.

5. Ensure gender diversity

6. Establish women leadership programs

  • Promote and support women's development within the engineering profession by providing opportunities for women to take on leadership roles.
  • This could be through mentoring, networking, and professional development programmes.

7. Invest in women's economic empowerment

  • Provide access to financing, training, and resources to support women-led businesses and initiatives in engineering.
  • Promote and celebrate women role models in the field.

By doing this, we can create a world where every woman can thrive and contribute to a better world.

It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do

Gender equality isn’t just a moral imperative but a strategic one: investing in women yields significant economic, social, and cultural benefits.

When women have equal opportunities, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields like civil engineering, they bring unique insights and approaches that drive innovation forward.

Let’s renew our commitment

On this International Women's Day, let’s renew our commitment to invest in women’s potential and advance gender equality.

Let’s reaffirm our dedication to building a more just, equitable, and inclusive world for all.

Let’s celebrate the achievements of women in all their diversity.

Let’s recognise the challenges that women continue to face.

And let’s commit ourselves to the ongoing work of building a future where every woman can thrive, free from limits and barriers.

Together, let’s invest in women – not just today, but every day.

Engineering diversity

The ICE values diversity and works to create a fairer environment free from harassment and discrimination - one in which everybody feels included and valued.

Learn more
  • Prachee Gupta, assistant professor at School of Engineering and IT, Manipal Academy of Higher Education