Durbin, Susan; Lopes, Ana; Warren, Stella; Neugebauer, John
University of the West of England, United Kingdom
Women comprise just 6.9% of engineers in the UK, are much less likely to graduate with a degree in aerospace engineering and make up just 4% of commercial and Royal Air Force pilots (RAeS 2009; WISE 2012; EngineeringUK 2013). This situation is set to continue unless steps are taken by organisations within the industry to end this gender imbalance and work towards gender equality. Evidence suggests that mentoring can be an important source of support for women at all stages in their careers in relation to both career advancement and social support (Ehrich, 2008; Durbin and Tomlinson, 2014; Kram 1985). This paper reports on the work of a group of women activists (academics and individuals from UK public and private sector organisations) who have joined together to create positive change for female professionals through a knowledge exchange project that is funded by the ESRC and the partner organisations. The aim is to build an industry-wide mentoring scheme, the first of its kind in the industry, to provide mentoring ‘for women, by women’ which involves working closely with female professionals within the industry. Drawing upon survey, interview and focus group data, the paper critically considers the rationale for the scheme, how it may meet the needs of a diverse group of women and the role of women activists in seeking to change the masculine culture in their own industry and to bring about positive change in terms of gender equality.