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Maximising the potential of female engineering talent in corporates and start-ups: Reaching out and reaching up in Europe – Claire McCartney and Dianah Worman, Co-directors of Inclusive Talent

Female engineer

Claire McCartney and Dianah Worman are Co-directors of Inclusive Talent – a diversity and talent management research, consultancy and facilitation organisation. They are also research and policy associates of the CIPD.

Claire McCartney and Dianah Worman - CIPDClaire McCartney and Dianah Worman - CIPD
Claire McCartney and Dianah Worman

Claire and Dianah were guest speakers at the recent Society of Women Engineers Europe Annual Conference, WE Europe: Reach Out to Reach Up, which took place between 11th-13th May at the College of Architects of Madrid. 

Finding and retaining STEM talent


The under representation of women in business is an increasing concern for business as more and more employers ask themselves where is the talent we need and what do we do to keep it. This concern has been mounting in science, technology, engineering and maths for some time across many economies across the world. It is triggering activity by diverse stakeholder interest groups including governments, education providers, professional bodies as well as employers themselves to find out what the issues are and what need to be done to fix them.

To improve productivity, sustain performance and beat competition employers need talented people but they give testimony to problems in attracting and retaining the skills and potential they need. This is a compelling problem that calls for concerted effort.

Reach Out to Reach Up

We have a personal interest in enabling the progress of diverse and inclusive talent to support business performance. We were therefore delighted to be invited to run interactive workshops at the Society for Women Engineers Europe conference: Reach Out to Reach Up, in Madrid last month.

The event brought together women engineers and employers to focus on the challenges and opportunities to make a difference in improving womens’ chances to forge career paths on an equal footing with men by sharing our knowledge, thoughts and ideas.

How behaviour causes unfair advantage and disadvantage

Dianah Worman - CIPD
Dianah Worman

Our first session, [facilitated by Dianah], explained diversity and inclusion, the business case, how behaviour causes unfair advantage and disadvantage, explored how it feels to be regarded as different from everyone else in the in-crowd, what changes can be made to progress diversity and inclusion and what can be done differently to attract and retain more women in engineering. This two part session was delivered as a lecture and highly participative group discussions designed to draw on the experiences and observations of delegates and their ideas for change that would work.

Female entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship in engineering

Claire McCartney - CIPD
Claire McCartney

Our second session, [facilitated by Claire], focused on the important issue of developing entrepreneurial skills for success in the engineering sector. The delegates that attended came from a range of different backgrounds and specialisms within engineering but were united by their passion for wanting to be more entrepreneurial in their approach to their work – whether that was starting up their own business or developing intrapreneur (inside entrepreneur) skills.

Unleashing STEM entrepreneurial potential

We discussed the fact that female entrepreneurial potential is an under-exploited source of economic growth. While women constitute 52% of the total European population, they only constitute 34.4% of the EU self-employed and just 30% of start-up entrepreneurs (source: the European Commission).

The situation is even more pressing in the STEM sector, where only 11% of business owners in the UK are women compared to 33% in non-STEM sector areas. More, therefore needs to be done, to unleash female STEM entrepreneurial potential.

The importance of ‘real’ role models

Throughout the session, delegates shared their own examples of female entrepreneurs that inspired them and talked about the skills that had made them successful. More often than not these role models were real life examples of family members or friends rather than what might be considered ‘celebrity’ entrepreneurs. We also explored how organisations themselves could become more entrepreneurial and shared examples of organisations that are successfully supporting intrapreneurs such as Microsoft, 3M and even the US State Department of eDiplomacy.

We finished this  session on a high by developing and sharing our personal action plans for enterprise in the future and we are looking forward to hearing about how the Society for Women Engineers conference and this session has helped to spring board some new female entrepreneurial STEM businesses going forward.

In our experience the event was a great success and created an exciting buzz in the networking sessions. We hope we helped to make a difference and look forward to contributing to future events.







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