Engaging, Motivating and Retaining Women in MedTech

With female engineers only making up 14.5% of the UK’s engineering workforce, it is important that we champion women in MedTech and implement practices that encourage them to thrive and remain in the industry.

 

My Journey

As the second born child in a family of 6 children, I was relentless in my pursuit of answers and constantly asked ‘why?’. My parents were not at all surprised when I went on to pursue a career in engineering.

My journey so far is quite typical for a women engineer of my generation. I had a strong influence from my school which was very engineering focused – Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, was a previous student. During my time at school, I never felt as though engineering was a career that was only open to men. My career began when I became a Junior Aerospace Engineer, working on propulsion systems. I then transitioned into a senior role where I worked in research and development of analytical instrumentation for testing emissions.

Despite loving my career, I left my employer to begin a career break after starting a family. When it came to returning to work, I wanted to remain in the engineering sector but could not find a position that allowed me to work flexibly around my family life. I founded Medical Engineers in 2008 to remain in the sector whilst maintaining a work-life balance.

 

Engaging

So how can we encourage more women to explore careers in the medical technology sector?

The 2021 Engineering UK survey tells us that there are around 906,000 women in engineering roles in the UK. Schools, colleges and universities are engaging women in engineering from an early age which has led to a 25.7% increase since 2016. However, there is still room for improvement. 14.5% of the UK’s engineering force is made up of women, but this is much lower than 27% across the rest of Europe.

As employers – we must encourage women engineers within our businesses and ask them to visit education establishments to inspire the next generation of engineers.

As parents – we can highlight the benefits of medical technology and normalise women engineers.

As women in MedTech – we can help each other by celebrating our successes and ask our employers to work with their local communities to inspire women to pursue a career in STEM.

 

Motivating

What do women in MedTech want from their employers?

In a survey of 300 female engineers, 84% said that they were happy with their career choice. Women enjoy having opportunities where they are challenged, and they can grow their knowledge and skills. But the number one reason people (not just women) leave their jobs is because they do not feel valued or appreciated.

As employers – it is important to remove gender bias from both the recruitment process and the organisation itself. Amplify female voices and ideas and promote your female talent. Review your compensation packages across roles and close the wage gap, also ensuring you have fair and flexible working policies.

As women in MedTech – we need to be confident in ourselves and have the courage to take every opportunity that is presented to us. Support each other and share opportunities with your network. Be your authentic self and lead in your own way and style.

 

Retaining

45% of women engineers will leave their engineering careers between 5-8 years after graduating. This percentage rises to 57% by the time women reach 45 years old which is a staggering statistic. In comparison, this is 17% for men.

I interviewed a number of women who had taken a career break. All felt that they had no option but to move to a role away from engineering so that they had the flexibility needed to return to work. Here are just a few quotes that highlight the issues within the industry:

“I didn’t apply for a management role because they were all advertised as full-time”

“I moved into consultancy because I don’t need to explain to clients why I’m only available 3 days per week. There isn’t the added pressure to do more”

“When I told my manager I needed to resign because I couldn’t manage full-time hours after starting a family, he readily accepted without discussing flexible working or reducing my hours”.

As employers – The pandemic has shown that flexible working across all engineering levels is entirely possible. We need to think more creatively to retain women in the industry. Offering extended career breaks and sabbaticals, job shares and increased flexibility will encourage greater diversity in your business.

As Women in MedTech – Challenge the norm! Ask questions regarding new opportunities – can this workload be compressed into a shorter working week? Could this be a job share? If we don’t challenge these ideals, we will never break the cycle.

 

If you would like to get in touch with me to chat more about Women in MedTech, or if you would like me to speak on the subject in your workplace, school or university, please email me at samantha@medicalengineers.co.uk.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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