From 2013 to 2014 only 3.4 per cent of those applying for engineering apprenticeships were women. National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) takes place on June 23, celebrating female engineering role models. Here, Martina Antalova MSc in Building Services, and lead mechanical design engineer at cleanroom and laboratory design and construction specialist, Boulting Environmental Services, explains how we can encourage more women to become engineers.
A common misconception in the engineering sector is that men dominate the profession. Statistically, women are the minority in the industry but with the right education and encouragement, anyone can succeed as an engineer.
The right education begins at school. However, under the current curriculum students are only briefly introduced to engineering in their early years. They may think that the field is just dirty work sites and hard hats and, therefore, be uninterested in pursuing a career in the field.
In reality, many sectors require engineers with advanced technical skills, who can work in a variety of roles. Teaching children about what engineering really entails is crucial to portraying engineering as an interesting career path to more young girls.
From engineers to project managers, engineering roles require technical skills such as advanced calculations and problem solving. Engineers must also work as a team to complete projects that create innovative designs for clients.
For example, at Boulting Environmental Services, engineers aim to design and construct sustainable, environmentally friendly buildings using their technical abilities. They must communicate well to liaise with clients and contractors, while using problem solving skills to complete a design that complies with health and safety regulations and good pharmaceutical manufacturing practice.
Women may also believe that, as a minority, it will be difficult to succeed as an engineer. However, over the last ten years, women have become more prominent in the sector and are frequently praised for their achievements.
Starting an engineering career is straightforward, if you hold the correct qualifications. Businesses can also help women start their careers through apprenticeship and graduate schemes, which encourage students interested in the sector to learn while they work.
While schools try to encourage equal opportunities for students, from personal experience, I feel boys are more encouraged to study the science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at a higher level.
National days, such as the NWED can promote diversity in the sector and give young girls role models to aspire to. However, this day could be made more prominent in schools to target girls who are starting to make decisions about their future.
Engineering companies should help promote this national day by visiting local schools. In this setting, both male and female engineers can contextualise the sector to students. Building National Women in Engineering Day into the curriculum helps make careers in engineering feel more natural to young girls that are struggling with gender stereotypes.
Any girls who enjoy STEM subjects must be encouraged to explore the engineering industry and be assured that gender has nothing to do with success. With the right education and determination, women can have an equal place in the engineering sector.