Women in engineering: your feedback on our advertising concepts
E&T marked International Women in Engineering Day with a special issue that sparked huge debate on Twitter, Facebook and in our inbox. We included ideas from seven advertising agencies for campaigns to attract more girls into the profession and asked you to vote in what became our most popular poll ever.
View the original seven creative concepts and see the final results of the online poll
Professions such as law, medicine and computer science attract women without having Cosmopolitan-style journals. I could suggest two good reasons why they give engineering a miss. It is an inflexible career; once specialised in an area it is very difficult to move to other industries or even businesses. Other professions allow for easy transfer between organisations and industry. Flexibility in taking career breaks or hours of employment is built-in.
Engineers are treated with an appalling attitude in the UK and we have not moved forward since I graduated in the 1970s. Most people still expect an engineer to have dirty hands and mend cars. I believe professional bodies have not addressed this.
Andrew Tattersall CEng MIET
Just got my copy of E&T – thank you! And every photo a woman, thank you! I shall pass it on to my granddaughter who is 12 and seriously wondering if being an engineer is for her.
Is it surprising that we have an image problem when we don’t know what an engineer is ourselves? Looked at from outside, and especially through the eyes of young people, we are as confused as they are. We are currently all mixed up in the minds of employers, educators and young people wanting to join our fun. Scientists gazing wistfully off into space on TV, or the all too few entrepreneur manufacturers, are credited with our successes, but precious little congratulation or recognition comes the engineers’ way.
Frank Cooke Flt Lt (RAF Rt’d) CEng FIET
Your July 2017 issue was patronising in the extreme. Photos mostly of glamorous lady engineers, Barbie dolls, pastel-coloured designs, concern for lifestyle and the environment, reassurance that engineers don’t have hard hats, overalls, use spanners, or do any kind of dirty work that might damage manicured nails and which those brutes of male engineers obviously do day-in day-out.
People are not attracted to the engineering profession because of a shallow branding exercise from an advertising agency. Engineers are people of intellect, intelligence, with a burning desire to create products for a better world. Any engineer worth his or her salt will seek out his or her vocation; you don’t choose a career like ours as you might choose a new coat, and there is no need to pretend that you can.
EurIng David M Parkins CEng MIET
The question of wanting to become an engineer should be “How do students find out that engineers do more than tasks which are portrayed in the public perception?” On the news, ‘engineers’ are shown clearing sewage pipes, installing telephones, repairing washing machines and mending cars. Dishwasher handbooks often say “before calling an engineer, check the machine is plugged in”. Maybe more of us should go to schools to give lectures.
Brian Buxton IEng MIET
As a 30-something chartered female engineer, words cannot express how disappointed and disheartened I am in your attempt at attracting more women into engineering. You have risen to every stereotype about women: glamour mag-esque pictures of airbrushed models, pink, pink and more pink, nail varnish, anatomically impossible dollies in high heels. Sadly, the list goes on.
If we wanted this we’d pick up one of the many, many dumbed-down over-sensationalised, airbrushed publications focused on what the publishing industry (and your London advertising agencies, apparently) believe women are interested in.
Shouldn’t we be looking at getting the best people into engineering rather than aiming for politically correct 50/50? I just want the best person doing the job! I also hate the boys are blue, girls are pink discrimination that has abounded for cheaper production costs. A good example is how Astronaut Barbie of the 1960s has fallen to the pink mass of the 2017s. Society seems intent on drawing barriers between people for reasons of market share.
Do we need to be making this a battle of women against men? Men built the Titanic, women designed the lifeboats. Yes, the Titanic sank – but there weren’t enough lifeboats either. Not the best advert for engineers, male or female! Where are the positive messages?
Show them the creative stuff – show them the problems and challenges and ask them how they would solve them. Show them the cool tools that we have – virtual reality, 3D, 4D and 5D modelling, drones. We’re engineers who happen to be women. Please don’t undermine us with the ‘Them v Us’ rubbish.
The people your ‘creatives’ should be addressing are not young women but their mothers, teachers and future employers. By the time they see the point of the adverts, career paths would have been determined, and engineering is a difficult career to move into if you haven’t been given the right foundation.
Joan Walsh CEng MIEE
From the phallic rocket to the laying of the blame for the Titanic disaster at the feet of ‘men’, you are risking dividing the people in a sinking boat, rather than seeking to make the boat bigger and stronger. There is a problem in this country with the image of engineering, which is deterring all young people from it.
There are further issues of images which deter women from seeking engineering as a career. The solution to the latter is not to divide the profession and demonise male engineers, but to unite the industry.
As a 61-year-old male engineer, my favourite adverts were ‘Men engineered the Titanic...’ and ‘If you don’t shape the future, a man will’, but my 55-year-old partner had a different view, feeling that most of the adverts seemed to be trying to encourage women into engineering by denigrating the efforts of males.
I can see where she’s coming from, and our joint favourite is ‘Get a job as a chief engineer... of saving children’s lives’, which at least gives a positive message all round.
Bryan Hay CEng MIET
The July 2017 issue was patronising and trivialised the issue it was seeking to address. Usual cliches applied: pictures of tampons, nail varnish and dolls. Why not devote more space to positive role models, male and female, promoting the interest and job satisfaction of an engineering career? There are so many examples of prestige engineering projects that could have been drawn upon. I don’t think I would have turned to advertising agencies to help with an image problem that that industry itself perpetuates.
Peter Morgan MIET
I may be one of the few male respondents to this campaign but during my professional life I had a number of female colleagues and found that our working relationships benefitted from a collaborative approach to problems, not the competitive, adversarial and sometimes tacky approach which pervades the seven concepts. My view is that they would, in varying degree, do more harm than good.
Derek Fern FIET
My work colleague lent me his copy of E&T as he thought this article would be of interest and it most certainly was. I work on aircraft as an aircraft avionics fitter and there is only myself and one apprentice who are female. This does not bother me as we are treated as any other colleagues. I am disappointed, though, to learn the percentage of females qualified as engineers in the UK is such a small number. I have only just returned to this career as I have been gaining a degree in human behavioural studies after a four-year break. Before I left there were four other female fitters and all have left due to parenthood.
I think the responsibility lies with the schools as the children in secondary school take their options at the much too young age of 13 when most have no idea what they would like to do. While at university, I was an ambassador for the STEM department and we would work at open days. Most of the children we saw were in primary school and at this age there was very little difference in gender, so this is why I come to the conclusion that secondary teaching needs to be more open and inspiring to engineering careers.
The most attractive and motivational item in this issue was not the gems issuing from the brains of creative agencies, but is the article about Eva Hakansson, closely followed by the wise words and telling sentiments of Prof Danielle George concerning attracting more people, not just women.
I had the privilege of being in the company of Miss Beatrice Shilling, referred to in the interview with Professor George. As a student in the early 1970s I was part of a group of women engineers visiting the Vauxhall factory in Luton. Apart from taking the engine designers to task in some of their choice of materials, Miss Shilling corrected my usage of the term of ‘lady engineer’. “My dear,” she said, “we are women engineers; have you ever heard of a gentleman engineer?”
Dr Margaret Fraser CEng FIEE