A STEM-focussed report has been published, providing a positive viewpoint of female engineers and offering support for the female uptake of STEM subjects.
This challenges the recent wave of negative STEM reports, which have tended to focus on the fact that young women aren’t choosing to study science and engineering. This report states why women are working as engineers, why they are good at it, and how being an engineer is good for them and their work/life balance.
I am male, and I don’t like physics: In fact, I never have liked it, and dropped it at school as soon as it was legally possible. However, according to the multitude of reports, papers and news stories, emanating from the media over the last few years, I am very much the exception to the rule.
Boys like physics and science – girls don’t – or so it would seem. However, I am living proof that the world really isn’t as black and white as this.
But you can’t argue with the statistics:
•20% of A level students studying Physics, are female
•Almost half of all state school have NO female students studying Physics at A Level
•Only 16% of engineering graduates are female
So, if it isn’t a natural, inherent gender-based dislike of a particular area of study, then what is it? Is it the lack of a real positive role model?
Think about it – who are the physicists we see on our TVs?
Prof Stephen Hawking?
Prof Brian Cox?
Inspiring figures, no doubt, but do they inspire a generation of young women to study the sciences, and to consider engineering as a career? Possibly not.
This is why I was very interested in a new report researched and published by a partnership between the Royal Academy of Engineering, BP and Rolls Royce (makers of the posh cars – not to be confused with Rose Royce, the 1970s disco outfit).
The report is called ‘Britain’s Got Talented Female Engineers’. Hardly a controversial statement is it? But one which, perhaps, hasn’t been officially recognised in this way before.
The research featured the views of 300 female engineers. Each was asked a set of questions, including:
•What inspired you during your early years?
•Why did you become an engineer?
•How happy are you with your career choice?
The research threw up some great statistics. From the 300 women questioned:
•98% believe it is a rewarding career for women
•80% are happy with their career choice
•87% are ‘not hindered’ by being a woman
•79% find engineering a supportive working environment, helping their work/life balance
•75% loved problem solving (possibly traditionally portrayed as a male trait?).
And, interestingly, 91% had an ‘inspirational teacher’ – a role model. Someone they can point to as the reason they became an engineer – which takes me back to the point I made earlier regarding the importance of such role models.
The 300 participants were also asked how more women could be encouraged into engineering.
One interesting suggestion was to place a greater emphasis on job role outcomes which might appeal to women, such as engineers solving problems for the developing world and disadvantaged people – although we may be drifting back into the realm of stereotypes here.
A large number of the respondents also stated that women need better careers advice.
And I guess that is where we come in?
Here at CASCAiD we have produced a number of videos championing female engineers.