Transforming the future for women engineers

Looking into some figures for International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June, I came across some startling statistics.

In the UK, only 12% of engineers are women and only 46% of girls aged 11-14 would consider a career in engineering compared to 70% of boys. Meanwhile, a mere 22% of students studying A level physics last year were female.

This is where the aims of the day come in – seeking to raise the profile of women in engineering and highlighting the career opportunities open to girls.

There is clearly a way to go before we achieve parity. But it’s also encouraging to know that 79% of female engineering students get a first or upper second class degree, slightly above the rate for males.

While there is a lot of talent out there it’s vital that we use every opportunity to get more girls believing at an early age that engineering could be the career for them.

What’s interesting is that the Women’s Engineering Society, who run the day, was established after women who worked in technical jobs in the First World War were unable to continue their roles in peacetime.

Clearly the issue of typecasting according to gender is an age-old problem, and can be linked to wider issues in our society around gender and equality.

My blog on International Women’s Day spoke about a better gender balance in all aspects of life, and working towards a positive workplace culture.

This has to start with how we educate our young people, and instil in them the idea that you can achieve whatever you set your heart on, regardless of gender or background. It’s encouraging to know that positive action is taking place in UK business to achieve this.

City AM recently reported that a growing number of male business leaders are fighting back against inequality by changing corporate culture and challenging outmoded practices that disadvantage women.

Given that there are only six female CEOs at the helm of FTSE 100 firms, earning on average around half of their male counterparts, this is very necessary and long overdue.

The issue is not just relevant for big corporations but for anyone involved in a start up or setting up a business, no matter the size. Starting a business can be intimidating for anyone, but adding gender inequality into the mix makes it that much harder.

The theme for this year’s day – #TransformTheFuture – echoes these sentiments, acknowledging the contribution female engineers have already made and looking forward to a future where they are equally represented in the industry.

To end on a high, a look at last year’s Top 50 Women in Engineering shows a wide range of roles in the engineering world in small business and larger enterprises, from a crane operator to ship’s conservation engineer. It’s a roll call of the diversity of careers within engineering and testament to the achievements of women in the field. Long may it continue!

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