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Championing the cause for women in engineering

09 March 2016

International Women’s Day informed us that it has never been more important to recognise, celebrate and encourage women in the engineering sector.

Recent statistics from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Skills and Demand in Industry survey showed that women represent only 9 percent of the engineering workforce in the UK.

Hoping to change this, The IET has launched its 2016 Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards (YWE) and is calling on successful young female engineers to enter. The Awards will recognise their talent and professionalism demonstrating to young women and girls across the UK that engineering is a diverse and exciting industry offering creative and challenging careers.

President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Naomi Climer, said: “Women are woefully underrepresented in engineering. In a profession with a serious skills shortage, this represents a problem for the economy as well as for diversity. We want to make it clear that engineering is a fantastic career for women. Not only that – but there are thousands of female engineers doing amazing things in everything from healthcare technology to space exploration. 

Female Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering say their careers in engineering have enabled them to use their curiosity about how things work in order to make a real difference in society. In a new series of profiles published to mark International Women’s Day 2016, 42 of the Academy’s women Fellows explain why they chose engineering as their profession and call on today’s school-leavers to follow their example, encouraging them to “just go for it”.

Asked what should be done to achieve gender parity in engineering, two thirds of the Fellows call for continued progress in breaking down existing stereotypes and creating a welcoming and inclusive culture in the engineering profession. 

They also highlight the importance of good teaching in schools and of sharing the interesting and exciting experiences they have enjoyed as professional engineers working around the world. The Academy’s Diversity in Engineering Program has an active program to promote culture change, which is supported across academia and industry.

Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says: “International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our women Fellows, while at the same time demonstrating over and over again that engineering offers rewarding careers. Their stories illustrate the creativity, variety and breadth within engineering. We hope that this will inspire and encourage more people to choose engineering careers.”

Public perception of women in engineering is slowly changing; a public survey by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has found that 78 percent of the public think engineering would be a good career choice for a woman.

The survey found that 86 percent of respondents would support their school-aged daughter if she decided to become an engineer. The poll also found strong support (78 percent) for more engineering to be included in the school curriculum, while 54 percent of people said engineering is as prestigious a profession as law, medicine or accountancy.

Dr Helen Meese, Head of Healthcare at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and a Chartered Engineer said “women are missing out on the huge career opportunities in engineering.”

“Engineering opens doors to hugely creative and rewarding career paths, from creating the next generation of greener, more efficient technologies, to developing life-saving procedures used in hospitals.

“This survey shows strong public support for women in engineering, and we hope that by making children aware of the variety of ways engineering impacts our day-to-day lives that we will be able to inspire more children and girls to take up engineering.”

WISE members and Ten Steps signatory companies marked International Women's Day by renewing their commitment to a program which focuses on the retention and development of female talent.

The Ten Steps is unique in its focus on sectors where women are still very much in a minority. It has been signed by the leaders of twenty science, technology, engineering and manufacturing businesses with a significant workforce in the UK.


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