Girls 'discouraged' to pursue engineering by parents’ perceptions

30 March 2015
By Laura Onita
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girls-engineering

When asked what subjects they enjoy at school, STEM subjects top children’s list

A staggering 93 per cent of parents would not support their daughter in pursuing a career in engineering because of outdated perceptions of the job, according to research conducted by the IET.

The survey, conducted by the IET as part of its Engineering a Better World campaign, further revealed that parents with girls believed their child would be most interested in pursuing a career in education and childcare (32 per cent), the arts (29 per cent), healthcare (26 per cent) and hair and beauty (23 per cent), with only seven per cent encouraging them to enter engineering.

In contrast, parents of boys thought information technology (47 per cent), sport (33 per cent) and engineering (28 per cent) were all sectors that would appeal to their child.

However, when asked about which subjects they enjoy at school, 39 per cent of girls said they enjoyed information technology, computing and design and technology.

William Webb, IET president, said: “We see clearly from this research that girls do have a genuine interest in these areas but this doesn’t translate to the number of women entering the engineering industry – six per cent of the engineering workforce in the UK is actually female.

“The data from our research clearly shows a need to engage better with girls and their parents about the importance of STEM subjects and the world of opportunities they can open up for young people in the engineering industry.”

The survey also sought to gauge what parents and their children thought of engineering as a profession. More than half of children (54 per cent) admitted they didn’t know anything about careers in the industry, while two in five parents said that if asked by their child for advice about a career in engineering, they wouldn’t know enough to support them.

When it comes to expressing their interest in the profession, girls were twice as likely as boys to say they would not want to find out more, while almost half of the parents of girls said they don’t know enough about engineering to help.

Boys appeared to dislike STEM subjects because they are boring, while girls said they are hard or difficult, or they are just not good at these subjects.

According to Webb, there is a growing need to change perceptions of what modern engineering is and what it can offer girls in terms of a career: “The key to doing this is by changing the perceptions of parents who are highly influential in their child’s decision making processes and showing them that engineering doesn’t have to be a messy, mechanical or physically demanding career choice.”

Paul Jackson, Engineering UK chief executive, said: “We recognise, along with the IET, the importance of giving parents the information and tools they need to further fuel young minds with an interest for engineering.”

The figure were released on Monday to mark the launch of IET’s Engineering a Better World campaign, which intends to address the knowledge and gender gap in the industry.

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