In the engineering world, women are hugely underrepresented. However, compared to European counterparts, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers on the entire continent. Leah Elston reports
The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe. Women are underrepresented across the workforce in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Encouraging girls into STEM careers requires positive messaging from a combination of parents, teachers and businesses in order to nurture their interests. To celebrate National Women in Engineering Day on June 23, Stone Junction has compiled four ways businesses can raise the profile of women in engineering and open eyes to the opportunities available to girls.
Positive exposure to women in STEM industries is a good way to inspire young girls. Engineering companies should promote their female employees and raise their profiles as role models for girls. Female engineers can register to speak at schools, mentor a student or make a YouTube video explaining what they do. Over 80% of female engineers in a survey by Atkins said they were happy at work, and 90% said they found their job rewarding. Businesses should work to make it clear that engineering can be an exciting career for both genders.
Beat the stereotypes
Engineering is not just for boys and it is not all hard hats and oily hands. Engineering underpins our everyday lives and is an exciting, innovative and creative career choice that addresses some of the major challenges society faces. A way to promote engineering as not just for boys is by including images of women on your website and avoiding using only the stereotypical image of a man in a hard hat.
One thing holding girls back is a lack of understanding and advice on what STEM careers involve. A greater awareness of the range of professional choices available is essential in supporting girls’ career development. There are many misconceptions as to what being an engineer involves and which discipline feeds into which career path. Businesses need to promote clarity on the career paths available and their differences, from software to chemical engineering.
Outreach – get involved!
There are many ways businesses can get involved with local schools, universities and the community to promote STEM careers to young girls. Businesses can organise events with a focus on girls, such as a visit for local school children, a lecture or a networking event.
Inviting your female engineers to give talks at local schools will help raise the profile of your company and increase girls’ understanding of engineering. This will help promote the skills needed for a STEM career to girls and encourage them to take these subjects at A Level.
The National Grid has sponsored the VEX robotics competition and there are many opportunities to support or run a competition that recognises innovative thinking in girls.
One day a year alone is not enough to revolutionise the status quo. Parents, teachers and businesses all have a role to play in sending the right messages to young girls to encourage them to pursue their interests in STEM careers.
Leah Elston–Thompson, account executive, Stone Junction.