Tomorrow, 23 June, is International Women in Engineering Day (Inwed). And on this day the UK desperately needs more engineers – 20,000 annually, according to Engineering UK figures. Equally worrying is that the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe – a mere 9%. Parents and teachers can encourage their children, especially girls, to take up and stick with Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), right through school to university. Projects and practical workshops will give young people hands-on experience, increase confidence and show that engineering can be fun. Our experience on engaging with school-age children is that they often see engineering as being confined to jobs in construction, transport or manufacturing. Let’s not forget that engineering can be about developing products useful to society, as well as roles in industry, computing, healthcare, medicine and protecting the environment.
So as well as calling on the government to do more, I’m calling on parents and teachers to seek out and present these role models in schools, through networking and in the home over the dinner table. Reach out to an engineering company near you and find an inspirational speaker. Or focus one lesson or homework assignment per week on female engineers. There’s a list of the top 50 on the Women’s Engineering Society site. Here are just six of my favourites to get you started: Ada Lovelace, creator of the first computer program; Grace Hopper, who created the first compiler for a computer language; Avni Shah, Google’s head of Chrome development; Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX; Debbie Sterling, creator of the GoldieBlox toy company; Sylvia Todd, a most creative and inspirational teenager. For more on Inwed activities taking place near you, go to www.inwed.org.uk.
President, RS Components, Oxford