Newcastle University Business School

Event Item

Will the Head of Engineering Please Stand Up? Women Engineers in the UK Aviation and Aerospace Industry

A Human Resource Management, Work and Employment research seminar

Date/Time: Wednesday 26 April 2017, 16.00-18.00

Venue: Room 4.23, Newcastle University Business School

Speaker: Sue Durbin

Gender segregation in the UK labour market is persistent and the result of little change in the numbers of women employed in male dominated industries. Many of these industries are facing skills shortages, which could be addressed through the recruitment and retention of more women (Munn, 2014). Engineering is one of the most gender segregated areas of employment in the UK (Kumar et al. 2016). The author has spent a number of years working with individual women and employers in the industry to understand why this is the case and more latterly, being involved in an initiative to support female engineers in the aviation and aerospace industry (the alta mentoring scheme).


The event will discuss the research paper which draws upon theories of gender segregation, research on women in male dominated industries and the role of ‘critical actors’ (Childs and Crook, 2009) in pushing gender equality forward. It will report on two studies.

The first is a gender comparison of male and female engineers, exploring the status of engineering as a profession, routes into engineering, career paths and sources of support, such as mentoring. It will also explore a second, more recent project with female engineers, which examines what it is like to be a female engineer in a male dominated organisation, the challenges women face and how they believe they are perceived in the industry.

This study formed the underpinning research for the alta mentoring scheme, based upon data gathered from just over two hundred and fifty females in the industry.

About the speaker

Professor Susan Durbin researches gendered employment, specifically women in male dominated jobs and industries. She has published her work in a number of journals, including Work, Employment and Society, Gender Work and Organization and Human Resource Management Journal. She is author of, Women Who Succeed: strangers in Paradise? (2015) published by Palgrave Macmillan.

She is an Associate Editor of the journal, Gender, Work and Organization and has recently co-edited a special issue of the journal, entitled, Gender Equality and ‘Austerity’: Vulnerabilities, Resistance, and Change (published January, 2017,with Sylvia Walby and Margaret Page).  She works extensively with organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit organisations and is a volunteer board member of Fair Play South West, the gender equality network in the South West of England. She is a founding member of alta, a bespoke mentoring scheme for women/by women, in the aviation and aerospace.