A transcript of Dr Marsh’s talk from the 2022 Hammermen Dinner can be read below:
“I’m an Electronics Engineer and I have worked in the aerospace, Telecomms, security and space industries, specialising in Field Programming Gate Arrays (FPGA). I have worked in companies ranging from 2 people to over 2,000, managed over 300 engineers and reached executive level.
Electronics is important and we use electronics everyday of our lives, in our phones, laptops, TVs, Cars, medical devices. Electronics can be thought of as the brains of any product. They keep us safe, in contact with the world and entertain us. An FPGA is a programmable electronic device which can contain a complete system in one chip.”
“When I first started working in the mid-1980s in Marconi, I worked with 4 other female engineers. The company put all the females in the one team as we worked shifts and they didn’t know if a lone women could work with men on night shift. As it turned out we never did night shift.
However, it was another 20 years before I worked with another female engineer. Over the last 15 years things have improved and the number of female engineers has increased. However, I find it incredible the number of firsts I’ve achieved in the last 5 years:
- First female electronics functional lead and Deputy head in Leonardo
- First female executive in electronics
- First female on the Hammermen of Edinburgh Deacon Committee
- First female Chair of IET Scotland
- First female Chair of IET Council, even though they 2 female Presidents
- First female Chair of the Engineering Policy Group Scotland
In March EngineeringUK released its Women in Engineering report. The headline is that 16.5% of those working in engineering are women, up from 10.5% in 2010 (374 thousand more women). This is an incredible achievement considering previous progress.
The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) was started in 1919 when women after WW1 were told they could no longer work as Engineers. It has taken since 1919 to 2010 (91 years, excluding WWII, for the number of women in engineering to reach 10.5%) and just 12 years to increase another 6%.
However, when you dig deeper not only is 16.5% still not good enough, but its not the whole story.
Take computing, the first ever programmer was a female – Ada Lovelace in 1830s. Women were human computers for decades and when computers became machines, 90% of the programmers were women. This continued until the 1960s when the men took over and now only 17% of programmers are women.
There are some areas where the number of women has decreased or stayed very low, for example refrigeration and construction engineers. At the senior management levels, the increase in women has only been 3.8%, despite the campaigns to get more women at board level.
There are success stories where the number of women is almost 50% – renewable energy and biomedical engineering.
As I’m an electronics engineer, I was interested in these results. The headline is fantastic as the number of women in electronics has increased from 2.8% to 15.2%. However, the reality is shocking – since 2010, there has been 2,500 more females, but 15,400 less men, an overall loss of 12,900 engineers, in a time where everything is dependent on electronics.
If this continues, then by 2035 there will be no new electronics engineers to replace the aging workforce, so who then is going to produce our phones, medical devices, transport, energy controls?
Engineering companies are setting targets, but including their entire workforce, not just engineering, so more women doesn’t equate to more women in engineering.
Why does it matter? There is an estimated average shortfall of 48,000 engineers a year, ignoring 51% of the population (women) is no longer an option.
Customers are diversity, so our workforce should be diverse. Gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to make more money, so it also makes business sense to increase the number of women in engineering. But its not just gender diversity that’s needed. We need diversity and more importantly inclusion in all areas, including ethnic minority, sexual orientation and disabilities (seen and unseen) and we need to continue to work hard to achieve this.”