BRITAIN lags behind most of Europe when it comes to the proportion of engineers who are women, a report has revealed.

Fewer than one in four engineers (22 per cent – just over 15,800 engineering graduates annually) in the UK are women (22 per cent), according to the research.

The UK ranked only 22nd in gender parity out of the 34 European countries considered in the analysis, which had an average of 28 per cent of engineers who are female. The most comprehensive study of its kind, bringing together figures from 99 countries, showed Sweden tops the new Engineering Index, which ranks countries by their engineering strength.

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The UK ranked only 14th, but above the United States.

However, the UK’s percentage of female engineers is far lower than other developed countries, with Myanmar, Tunisia and Honduras leading the world in gender parity in the sector.

Figures from the World Bank show the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was £27,100 in 2013.

But the new research suggests that if the UK ranked first in the Engineering Index, GDP per capita would have increased by 10 per cent to £29,900.

The global study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), to mark a gathering of engineering and international development leaders in London, shows a strong positive link between engineering strength and economic development.

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The report, commissioned by the Royal Academy of Engineering, also featured the first Engineering Index.

Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands top the list – scoring well due to high employment in engineering, high average engineering wages, and good quality engineering infrastructure.

The UK ranks 14th in the Engineering Index thanks, in part, to the high annual salary commanded by UK engineers.

Britain also outperforms almost all other nations with the quality of its educational institutions – with nine university engineering departments making the UK Times Higher Educ- ation University Rankings top 100 list.

But the size of the engineering workforce in the UK also compares poorly to other countries, with latest figures indicating engineers represent just 0.7 per cent of the UK population.

David Whitaker, managing economist at Cebr, said: “This is the first time a global study has looked holistically at the value of engineering and its role in economic development.

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“The Engineering Index pulls together data from 99 countries to comprehensively map engineering today: its workforce, output, graduates, the quality of infrastructure and research, and where its impacts are most-needed.”

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, deputy chief executive and director of strategy at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “Engineers have historically played an important role in driving economic and social development, and continue to do so, by designing and delivering systems that facilitate education and healthcare, enhance quality of life, and help to eliminate global poverty.

“For the first time, this report shows there is a direct link between engineering capability and economic development across the world.”