Female engineering talent in Wales being 'wasted'

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More high-tech engineering companies should be based in Wales to attract and retain engineers, particularly female ones, a leading academic says.

Wales has the lowest numbers of female chartered engineers in Britain - just 5.6% compared to 5.9% in England and 6% in Scotland, Engineering UK says.

Prof Karen Holford, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said talent was being "wasted".

A Welsh government review is looking into the lack of women in the industry.

Prof Holford, who is the pro vice chancellor of Cardiff University's college of physical sciences, told BBC Radio Wales' Eye on Wales: "A lot of the big companies have their research and development bases elsewhere, and I think that's a big problem.

"One of the most fascinating things about engineering and science is the research and development you can do, so I would welcome more high tech research and development jobs for Wales."

'Encourage and support'

Wales' lack of female engineers compares badly to both the rest of Britain and the rest of Europe. In Sweden, 25% of chartered engineers are female.

It is a problem the Welsh government is grappling with.

Julie Williams, the chief scientific advisor, has commissioned an independent report in to women in STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A Welsh government spokesman said: "This review will examine why girls and women are currently underrepresented in these areas, explore what can be done to encourage and support them to pursue STEM opportunities as well as looking at how different organisations in Wales can help to address the problem."

'Talented engineers'

The report is co-chaired by Prof Holford and its recommendations will be published early next year.

She believes it matters because Wales has a shortage of chartered engineers generally.

Prof Holford added: "We're wasting talent if we don't crack this.

"Engineering is one of the industries that will create jobs and growth for the nation. So it's critical that we get this right, and that we get the best engineers, the most talented engineers working and staying in Wales."

Eye on Wales is on Sunday, 29 November at 12:30 GMT on BBC Radio Wales.

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