The importance of diversity and increasing female leadership in engineering

20 June 2024

The importance of diversity and increasing female leadership in engineering

In today's world, engineering remains a field with significant gender disparity, despite efforts to promote inclusivity. The recent statistics published by Engineering UK report, for the first time, a small decline in the number of women in engineering in the UK. 

In 2023 there were: 

  • 6.3 million people working in engineering and technology occupations, accounting for 19.2% of the UK workforce. 
  • The number of women working in engineering and tech has dropped by 38,000 – from 16.5% of the 2022 workforce to 15.7% of the 2023 workforce. 
  • The fall in women in the engineering and tech workforce is driven by a fall of 66,000 between the ages of 35 to 64, indicating that women are not being retained. 

Why diversity matters

Diversity in engineering is essential for diversity of thought, representation, inclusivity, and improved team dynamics. 

Engineering is about problem-solving, and diverse teams bring different perspectives that lead to innovative solutions. My own journey into engineering was shaped by a combination of personal interests and the privilege of a supportive upbringing, while others may not have the same access to these advantages. 

Engineering solutions should serve the entire society, but when the workforce lacks diversity, significant segments of the population are often overlooked. For example, many products, from PPE to car seat belts, are often designed for men, compromising safety and comfort for women. A diverse team ensures that solutions are inclusive and cater to everyone.  Diverse teams have been shown to perform better, with enhanced effectiveness, innovation, and productivity. Gender diversity brings a broader range of skills and perspectives, leading to better decision-making and problem-solving. 

Addressing the gender gap

Influencing career choices should start at an early age. Programmes that introduce engineering concepts to primary school students can ignite interest before stereotypes take hold. Collaborations with schools, parents, media, and community organisations will enhance visibility. 

Companies must foster inclusive cultures and implement policies that support diversity, including flexible working arrangements and equal opportunities for advancement.  Additionally, they should ensure that anybody capable feels confident and comfortable applying for leadership roles. While the number of women in leadership roles has increased during my 30-year career, there is still significant room for more progress. 

As the first female President of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA), I've seen firsthand the enthusiasm and surprise that comes with a woman taking on a leadership role in engineering. This reaction underscores the persistent gender disparity in our field.  

Having women in visible engineering leadership roles also provides role models for young girls and women, showing them that they can aspire to, and succeed, in this field. I hope that, in this regard, I am helping to break down stereotypes and encourage more women to consider engineering as a career. 


The importance of diversity in engineering cannot be overstated. A diverse workforce leads to better problem-solving, more innovative solutions, and a more inclusive society.

While progress has been made, the recent decline in the number of women in engineering roles is a reminder that our efforts must be intensified and sustained. By engaging young people early, promoting visible role models, and fostering inclusive workplaces, we can work towards a future where engineering is a viable and attractive career choice for everyone, regardless of gender. 


Catriona Savage

Programme Lead, FSS


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