Prof Dame Ann Dowling – Why we need more creative women in engineering


Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge, recently addressed a gathering in Trinity College Dublin on the topic of ‘Diversity and inclusion: a value proposition for engineering’, on the invitation of WiSER Women in Science and Engineering Research. She spoke to Angie Mezzetti for the Women In Leadership Podcast.

Lack of diversity in engineering is of concern in many countries. In the UK, only 8% of engineers are women, the lowest proportion across Europe. Representation of minority ethnic groups is also low, at around 6% of the workforce. Ann Dowling discusses some of the lessons learnt from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s diversity and inclusion programme in the podcast. This D&I programme, funded by the UK government, has recently completed its first phase and has made notable progress working with employers, UK professional bodies and third sector organisations in raising awareness, sharing leading practice and driving change across the industry.

In the podcast Prof Dame Ann Dowling talks about her own work and career and she also has information for employers and educationalists on how to attract and retain talented women engineers. She also has advice for parents about how to encourage more young women to consider what she believes is a creative and exciting career.

Among the tips she has for employers in engineering companies she says:

Be rigorous about data collection and acting on it.

Leadership from the top matters and should be a priority. This must be a business imperative from the top and there is a business case for doing this work in improving diversity and inclusion.

Consider the bottom line. The evidence is there, improved gender diversity can often lead to improved earnings per share.

Be careful how you describe the job so that it attracts women as well as men.

Think through the women’s careers as carefully as you do the men.

Watch out for unconscious bias at critical career points. Have trained people in place at interview and promotions points to counteract unconscious bias.

Plan international experience with the woman as you would with men.

Make it clear you are keen to see women progress through the company. Have an inclusive culture.

Flexible working conditions are good for both men and women.

Mentoring schemes work and often lead to innovation.

To parents Prof Dame Ann Dowling suggests a career in engineering is a creative rewarding one for their young girls as well as their young men. She says there are opportunities to work in different fields of engineering that affect all aspects of life from health and life sciences to the movie industry.


Angela Mezzetti
Follow Me