Yesterday was National Women in Engineering Day, which is dedicated to raising the profile and celebrating the achievements of women in the industry.
This is the third year that the day has been celebrated but behind the celebration is a worrying long-term trend for girls and women to shy away from an engineering career. This is not just an issue for gender diversity, it’s a very significant problem that is contributing to skills shortages.
In the UK, women represent just nine per cent of engineers, the lowest percentages in Europe. Analysis by the Royal Academy of Engineering suggests we will need more than a million new engineers and technicians by 2020 to fulfil demand and continue to boost the economy. So improving our gender diversity - and indeed our diversity more generally in engineering - has a strong economic motivation.
The variety of creative and stimulating careers available to women in modern engineering is vast – female engineers today are working on everything from healthcare technology that can combat some of the world’s most prevalent diseases, to designing the space vehicle for the next mission to Mars.
It’s a shame that more girls aren’t aware of these fantastic career opportunities that they could be missing out on - and, as a result, industry is losing the innovation and creativity that inevitably comes with greater diversity in the workforce.
It’s a challenge finding and championing female engineering role models to inspire the next generation, working with schools and parents to make sure girls get the right career advice and encouraging more girls to study ‘engineering gateway’ subjects like maths and physics.
Entries for the 2016 IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards championing female engineering talent, which close on Thursday June 30, are strong this year.
Naomi Climer, president,
Institution of Engineering and Technology,
EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s Scarborough Engineering Week, open to all schools and colleges throughout the district and with a public session, takes place October 11-13 at Scarborough Spa, organised by the Scarborough Ambassadors and supported by NYBEP, the county education business partnership.