The mechanical and plant engineering sector is increasingly facing the challenge of finding and retaining suitable skilled workers. There is no quick fix for the shortage of skilled workers; rather, a variety of approaches to the solution need to be tried. One possible approach deals with the question of how to get more women interested in technical professions. Regardless of the perspective of the shortage of skilled workers, increasing the proportion of women opens up further potential for companies, as diverse teams are more successful. ProduktionNRW held a virtual exchange of experiences on March 28, 2023, to discuss ways to inspire, attract and retain women for technical professions. It became clear that in the mechanical and plant engineering sector in North Rhine-Westphalia there is not a problem of knowledge, but rather a problem of implementation for the enthusiasm of women for technical professions.
Women engineers in mechanical and plant engineering
Dr. Franziska Šeimys, a consultant in the VDMA’s education department, began by discussing the IMPULS Foundation’s study “Women engineers in mechanical and plant engineering”, which was conducted in cooperation with RWTH Aachen University. The study aims to identify factors and recommendations for action to attract female engineers to mechanical and plant engineering and to retain them in the industry. Both the female engineers’ and the companies’ perspectives were taken into account qualitatively.
The study looks at the entire career path of female engineers (before they start their studies, during their studies, when they start their careers and in the company), analyzes the influencing factors and derives recommendations for action. In addition to the study results, companies also have the opportunity to use an interactive checklist to obtain individualized recommendations for attracting, retaining and promoting female engineers in mechanical and plant engineering that are appropriate for their particular situation.
In the ensuing discussion, it became clear that some companies in the mechanical and plant engineering sector are already addressing women in technical professions in a targeted manner. For example, women are deliberately included in the imagery on social media, company guidelines are introduced for a gender-neutral approach, or analyses are carried out regarding fair pay between the sexes. This shows that more women are finding their way into technical professions.
Practical example: Inspiring, attracting and retaining women for technical professions
Karin Münstermann, CSR Coordinator & International Training Projects at Bernd Münstermann GmbH & Co. KG, then presented the company’s activities in this area. Accordingly, the company starts, for example, with elementary school classes in order to awaken technical interest at an early age. For students of all school types, gender-separated workshops on technical topics such as welding or programming are offered. In addition to the functioning school cooperations, employee portraits – also of female employees – will be the focus on the company’s own website and on social media. Even if the activities for Münstermann are not measured by concrete figures, the approach is the right one for the company. The focus is on presenting equality as a matter of course – this is also lived in the corporate culture.
The participants then discussed, among other things, whether targeting girls for gender-segregated workshops might not also be a deterrent. The topic of networking opportunities for women was also discussed extensively – is this a sensible approach to empowering women in the company, or are men possibly disadvantaged at this point? With reference to the study results, it is clear that women in technical professions are still in the minority and therefore readily accept voluntary networking offers. Therefore, such an offer does no harm, but actually strengthens the corporate culture.
Exchange on practicable solutions
One participant is currently working on the design of the new company website. In this regard, the question was asked whether a separate sub-page on the topic of women in technical professions should be considered. If the results of the IMPULS study are followed, this additional visibility of women is helpful, because a key finding is that visible women lead to more women applying to the company.
- IMPULS study “Women Engineers in Mechanical and Plant Engineering
- Interactive checklist for attracting, retaining and promoting female engineers in the mechanical and plant engineering sector
The event was offered by ProduktionNRW. ProduktionNRW is the cluster of mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is run by VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform to connect, inform and market companies, institutions and networks among each other and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.