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Why do we need an International Women in Engineering Day?

23/06/2022

The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) works tirelessly to support and promote the work of women in engineering roles throughout the UK, getting involved with schools, engineering students and professionals, as well as raising the profiles of some of our most pioneering female engineers from history. This time last year we posted an article about who some of those women were and their achievements.

What is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) all about?

Having a day to celebrate the work of women in the vast range of engineering roles throughout our innovative, cutting-edge industry provides a platform for what is still an extremely under-represented group. Ultimately, INWED’s primary focus is on encouraging school-age girls and young female students to adopt the sciences in the first instance and then engineering as a career path. Founded by the WES, the annual INWED event creates a wave of conversations, practical events and promotional activities around the world to celebrate inspirational women in our industry and encourage young people to get involved.

Why do we need INWED?

According to Engineering Uk , 47% of the UK’s workforce is made up of women, whilst only 16.5% of engineers are women. When you take a broader look at the workforce within engineering businesses, even when you remove the engineering job title, women still make up only 21% of the overall staff. Does it matter? Evidence shows that a diverse workforce is more effective for business, leading to better decision-making, greater innovation and higher levels of engagement. However, anyone working in the engineering industry will already be acutely aware of the current skills gap in our industry regardless of gender; we need to encourage more young people across the board into engineering roles, and if we can also increase the number of girls taking up these subjects as students from the outset, this will go a long way to closing that gap.

The good news? The number of female engineers is already up 6% on the previous numbers gathered in 2010, so we have made some headway as an industry over the past 10 years or so.

Why the disparity between men and women? Data tells us that at GCSE level, the entrant numbers by gender for physics is roughly 50:50 female:male. By the time we reach A-level that has dropped to 22:78 and at degree level for engineering and technology students it’s just 17:83. Engineering apprenticeships paint the least positive picture at 9:91 male:female. The data, then, suggests that the issue with attracting women into engineering doesn’t start with employers; by the time graduates reach the point of looking for a job in the engineering marketplace, the numbers are already skewed well in favour of men, simply by virtue of the fact that only 17% of graduates in relevant subjects are women.

There is, of course, always more that we can do as an industry, and the fact that female employees as a whole in engineering businesses are in the minority raises some questions about how and where we promote our job roles; we truly believe that engineering is an exciting, wonderful place to work, and we need to do better in getting that message across to people outside of technical roles.

How, then, do we make the subject more accessible or attractive to school leavers, and present engineering as the great career path that we all know it to be?

According to the EBM (Engineering Brand Monitor) survey conducted each year, we know for certain that STEM outreach works, and a young person who has attended a STEM careers event is three times more likely to consider a career in engineering than the control group. And yet, only a quarter of the young people questioned had ever been to such an event.

Our own engineers have spent time at local schools talking about their jobs, the kinds of work that we do and why we do it – not only does it give the pupils a great insight but it’s rewarding for us to see the enthusiasm and engagement from them.

What can you do?

The best thing you can do is to talk about engineering! Talk about it to the young people around you, post about it on social media and in places that youngsters hang out. Help them to understand what it means to be an engineer – what made you sign up? What do you love about your job?

If you have kids, nieces and nephews, family friends, get involved in activities at the weekends – these kinds of engineering challenges for kids is a great place to start: https://www.dyson.com/newsroom/corporate/top-five-engineering-challenges-to-do-at-home

Make sure youngsters understand how to get into engineering with resources like this poster from the Royal Academy of engineering.

If you are willing to give a little of your time to volunteer, the STEM Ambassador Programme will help you get involved in promoting STEM subjects if you’re unsure about where or how to begin.

Calling all women engineers!

Most importantly, if you are a woman in an engineering role, not only should you be celebrated this INWED, but you, too, should celebrate – take the opportunity to shout from the rooftops about what you do, why you do it, and why more girls should follow in your footsteps. We have female engineers at Eadon Consulting, and we’re extremely proud of them. Would we like more of them? Absolutely!

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