Celebrating Women in Engineering Day

This Women in Engineering Day, Bethany Preston considers how barriers are being broken down, and what more can be done.

According to recent research, there are now more than 1 million women working in core roles across science, technology, engineering and maths for the first time ever. Thanks to an increase of more than 350,000 women in core Stem roles in the last 10 years, women now reportedly make up 24% of the core workforce.

Within this, the number of women in engineering has almost doubled in the last decade – from just over 25,000 to more than 50,000. However, as we celebrate this success on Women in Engineering Day on 23 June, we must remember that females are still disproportionately underrepresented. So, how can we break down these barriers?

Celebrating STEM

A major challenge towards breaking down gender barriers lies in education, as schools struggle to retain interest in STEM subjects. Despite the ongoing consumerisation of technology, there is still a perception that STEM subjects are both boring and more suited to boys. In fact, previous research from Microsoft has shown that there is a sharp decline in girls’ interest in STEM subjects between the ages of 11 and 16.

In order to break down such perceptions, classes need to become more varied – demonstrating the range of careers that can be accessed with STEM skills – and more practical in nature.

The onus should also fall on the engineering industry to highlight the exciting side of these subjects. Arqiva attempts to do this through its STEM ambassador programme – an initiative that involves setting up creative events to engage young boys and girls, and encourage them to consider a career in engineering.

If young girls are to be persuaded to explore a career in engineering, they need to see STEM subjects in a new light. Over the coming years, businesses and schools must work together to reach out to this audience, and demonstrate that modern day engineering is exciting, innovative and, most importantly, gender inclusive.

Establishing Role Models

Another key driver of this perception change will be the presence of female role models to look up to – to make young women think, “if they can do it so can I.” This relies on a band of individuals who are willing to step into male-dominated worlds, change perceptions, and inspire a new generation of female engineers.

Senior leaders must find ways to highlight the work of the women who have made a difference in this industry, but so too must those women who have succeeded be willing to shine a light on how attainable a career in engineering is for females from any background. Often, girls will feel intimidated at the prospect of working in an almost exclusively-male workplace, and the sight of a woman flourishing in that sector will provide much needed reassurance.

The engineering sector has already started to make important strides in its journey to attract and support female talent. I’m sure by next Women in Engineering Day, there’ll be even more of us.

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