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02 Jul 2019


A couple of weeks ago we celebrated International Women in Engineering Day. This is a global awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available within this exciting industry. 2019 also marks 100 years of the Women in Engineering Society which was founded after World War One by the influential and pioneering women who found themselves no longer able to work in the engineering jobs they had held while the men were away. WES aims to support women to meet their potential as engineers, encourage and promote the study of engineering and work with influencers to provide gender diversity and equality in the workplace.

According to WES only 11% of engineers in the UK are women, possibly the lowest in Europe. It has been identified that one key reason for this is that girls at school are not seeing the images of engineering that appeal specifically to them. There has been too much emphasis on the more traditional concept of engineering that focuses on cars, railways, aerospace and structures whereas girls are more attracted to the more creative, problem solving aspects of the job. For instance, they may ask more why engineering matters in society and gravitate towards medical engineering, energy production or issues such as global warming and the supply of clean water.

I listened to a fascinating discussion on ‘Woman’s Hour’ on BBC Radio 4 last week in which three female engineers from different fields discussed their experiences. Their passion for their chosen careers shone through but all spoke of the tangible surprise of male colleagues when they met them for the first time – this was especially true of the two younger women. Reading down the comments on the Woman’s Hour Instagram feed in response to this item there is consensus that we must show girls what engineering actually is rather than perpetuate images of grease, spanners, overalls and heavy machinery. Similarly, it is crucial to explain the many avenues into engineering, particularly the apprenticeship route as well as university. One of the women, Naomi Climer CBE (@naomiclimer), Vice President at the Royal Academy of Engineering made the very poignant observation ‘we need more women in engineering because everything we do in life is affected by engineering. I want the things that we’re touching and working with to be thought about by people who know what my life is like.’