#9PercentIsNotEnough - how do we inspire more girls to become engineers?
Gender diversity in engineering is shocking. At best, 9% of UK engineers are female. This has to change. How do you think we can inspire more girls to become engineers?
Engineers play a vital role in society, they transform the lives of people everywhere. To be able to do this, engineers have to understand society's needs, but how can the engineering community do this if it does not represent society? Today in the UK, at most only 9% of engineers and technology employees are female. This is not enough.
Teachers should encourage female students to take Physics A level; Physics is a fundamental A-level to have in order to study engineering and most girls that like Sciences choose Chemistry or Biology instead and therefore don't have the option of engineering when it comes to applying to universities. Science teachers should be promoting engineering as a profession.
I agree with Jessica that more girls seem to focus on Chemistry and Biology than Physics which I don’t think is an issue if they wish to follow a career in Chemical Engineering or Bio Engineering however for Electrical, Mechanical & Civil related Engineering I think that Physics should be promoted.
I recently attended a STEM event at Glasgow science centre where schools from all over Scotland came to compete and take part in challenges, I would say there was an approximate 50/50 split between girls and boys and I found the teachers to be extremely encouraging and supportive of their pupils. There does not seem to be a lack of encouragement to take a STEM subject in school but perhaps more guidance is needed so students will be more inclined to choose an engineering course at University.
I think that there is an issue with the number of women who study Engineering at University only to drop out or even complete university but leave their career later on. A big contributing factor to the number of women dropping out of Engineering is the culture surrounding it, we need to work together to create a more diverse, positive and open minded culture. From my own experiences it sometimes feels like I am an orange slice wedged into an onion, I fit but I am very different to everyone around me.
Most of these issues can be solved by simply having inspirational role models for girls to look up to and aspire to be. No matter how difficult a course is or your career is if someone you admire and can relate to has achieved those things then it gives you belief that you can too. Having a mentor to guide and advise you through difficult tasks and situations is also Key to becoming a successful Engineer. We need more successful female Engineers to stand up and speak out so that they can inspire others to achieve.
I agree that encouraging Physics is a positive concrete step that could help.
More widely I feel that the problem is linked to the image surrounding engineering, often portrayed in the media as a geeky, male dominated profession (even misogynistic at times - e.g. The Social Network). This image may make the industry appear intimidating for women and also gives the impression, that in society's eyes, women would somehow have to part with their "femininity" to become an engineer. In this sense language such as girle, boystress, laddy, words which contain baggage and prejudice about what it means to be male/female are dangerous and should be avoided!
I also agree that a strong female role model in engineering could go a long way to breaking down these barriers.
And of course (in my opinion), positive discrimination should be used to re-balance the scales. Perhaps the best level for that to happen would be at higher education level, which would place the onus on educational institues to redress the balance.
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