TRANSNET Programme


FEATURE: How can it be that UK engineering is 91% male?

22 January 2019

Dr Lidia Galdino, Associate Vice President of the IEEE Women in Photonics initiative, on the importance of diversity within the photonics and optics community - and what's being done.

Image of Dr Galdino in-front of laboratory equipment

Author Navta Vij, TRANSNET Communications Manager

Logos for ICCS research themes - Inteligent High Capacity Networks, Infrastructure for Smart Applications, and Information, sensing and data
Engineering | Diversity | Women in Photonics

Dr Lidia Galdino - Co-Investigator on the TRANSNET Programme and a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow – asks, earnestly, “how can it be that UK engineering is 91% male?[1] 

Latest figures also suggest that women make up just 11% of the engineering workforce across the UK[2]. A surprising statistic considering the engineering work sphere faces particular challenges in terms of skills shortages – according to Engineering UK approximately 92% of the engineering workforce is led by men but this number too is dwindling. The statistics suggest then, that women in engineering are clearly needed.

To counteract this, the IEEE Photonics Society launched the ‘Women in Photonics’ initiative and through this are actively taking steps to better address diversity and inclusion within the field of optics and photonics. Dr Galdino was recently appointed Associate Vice President of the initiative and is vigorously seeking new and engaging ways to ensure the global diversity of the community in which the Society serves is represented in all aspects.


As Dr Galdino states: 

Diversity and Inclusion is about enhancing the outputs of our organisations, and helps fill the engineering skills gap. We are continually working to build a culture where all engineers thrive, regardless of their age, ethnicity, or gender

Since its inception the IEEE Women in Photonics initiative have organised a number of professional development and technical events that have proved extremely successful with participation from women across UK’s universities. In the past year these have included hackathons, tech talks, soft skill seminars, summer schools, networking mixers, K-12 outreach, chapter workshops, meet-ups and online webXs, at conferences and, more importantly, at the grassroots level.


Alongside this, Dr Galdino and the IEEE Photonic Society Diversity Oversight Committee are keenly reviewing member resources to create a Speaker Database to find suitable speakers and global volunteers from underrepresented groups. In addition, conference organizers will be encouraged to consider making arrangements that are family friendly.  


On the future of women in the photonics and optics community, Dr Galdino is extremely positive. As she observes, whilst the number of women engineers in the UK workforce is low, it is certainly on the increase (up from 9% in 2015)[3], something she alluded to in her first talk delivered as AVP; speaking at the British and Irish Conference on Optics and Photonics at the prestigious Royal Society, Dr Galdino urged delegates to build on the progress underway by “fostering inclusivity and diversity, empowering women, young professionals, underrepresented minorities, amongst others, to flourish within the community”.


Find out more about the IEEE Photonics Society here; further information about the Women in Photonics initiative is available here.

To contact Dr Galdino about the initiative and any other questions, email l.galdino@ucl.ac.uk

To learn more about how you can get involved as a volunteer with the IEEE Photonics Society and the rewards, contact Lauren Mecum, IEEE Community Outreach & Development Manager, l.mecum@ieee.org for further information. 

To sign up to the Speaker Database complete a short form here.  

To learn more about the EPSRC funded TRANSNET Programme, led by UCL in conjunction with Aston and Cambridge Universities, click here.

[3] Global Diversity and Inclusion - Fostering innovation through a diverse workforce, Forbes Insights, 2011 http://images.forbes.com/forbesinsights/StudyPDFs/Innovation_Through_Diversity.pdf