By Andrew Conway Director of Engineering, BAI Communications UK

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Ada Lovelace Day is an international celebration of women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It’s important to mark female success in a field where it is not always visible to younger women planning their careers.

The event, which falls this year on 8th October, aims to inspire women to pursue and develop STEM careers, helping to address skills shortfalls and improve demographics. It is named in memory of 19th century English mathematician The Hon. Augusta Ada Byron, known for her work on the Analytical Engine, the world’s first computing device. Lovelace was a pioneering force in imagining the possibilities of computing, with her work influencing computer programming in the Second World War. But her genius was unrecognised for up to a century after her death, highlighting the invisibility of women in STEM.

The importance of female visibility in STEM

Today female representation in engineering is just 12% of the current engineering workforce, we need to do much more to ensure opportunities are taken up equally. Ada Lovelace Day is an annual reminder for organisations in the UK and global businesses like ours to take action to increase female representation. It’s also a symbol to young women considering their future.

Although female representation in engineering has risen from 9% in 2015, this isn’t enough progress. And this matters. Engineering plays a key role in driving UK economic growth and productivity. Figures from Engineering UK, released earlier this year, demonstrate that the industry generated 21% (£1.2 trillion) of the UK’s £5.7 trillion turnover in 2018. This is encouraging news for the industry and the UK economy. But current statistics from the Royal Academy of Engineering reveal that the sector is facing an annual 59,000 shortfall of engineering graduates and technicians to fill available roles in the sector.  Creating a diverse talent pipeline is critical if we are to bridge the chronic skills gap faced by industry.

Employers must take responsibility for building diverse workforces

We know that, to see real improvement, employers have as much of a role to play as policymakers and educators. Consequently, at BAI Communications, I’m committed to developing diverse teams across our organisation internationally. With active support from senior women across our business globally, we want to lead this agenda from the top.

As BAI grows in the UK, we will develop a diverse workforce at all levels of our business. The UK organisation Women’s Engineering Society (WES) is succeeding in its aim to support and inspire women to pursue and progress in engineering careers. Though our partnership with WES, we aim to broaden the BAI workforce and work with other businesses to encourage more women to succeed in the sector. In addition to supporting existing job applicants, we are also looking at how we can build the sector’s talent pipeline.

Every stage of the engineering career path has an under-representation of women so the best time to intervene is when young women are deciding on further education. Employers are then responsible for ensuring young people know about all the career opportunities available to them.

As Director of Engineering in the UK, I’m always looking to build our team with proactive and curious new employees. And as a parent, I also feel a personal responsibility to encourage enquiring minds, break gender barriers and find positive female role models.

There’s more work to be done

We know we have a long way to go to develop a truly diverse workforce and talent pipeline for the UK engineering sector. Consequently, we need an active and collaborative approach to be able to stimulate, and achieve, change across the industry. Employers have a significant role to play in improving diversity, and our industry should lead by example.