Engineers working on Crossrail

Girls still less likely than boys to believe they could be engineers

Image credit: Arup, BECHTEL

According to new research from Engineering UK, only 60 per cent of girls aged 11 to 14 think they could become an engineer if they want to, compared to 72 per cent of boys.

This figure drops to 53 per cent in the 16 to 19 age range, where only a quarter of girls say they would ever consider a career in engineering.

The findings have been published in Engineering UK’s new briefing ‘Gender disparity in engineering’. The briefing examines female under-representation in an industry where women make up just 12 per cent of the workforce. This disparity is largely due to girls dropping out of the educational pipeline at every decision point, despite generally performing better than boys in STEM subjects at school.

Evidence shows gender differences in understanding of and interest in engineering, as well as perceptions of self-efficacy and identity, are likely to be key factors when making subject and career choices. Girls are not only less knowledgeable about engineering and how to become an engineer, but also less likely to seek career advice from others.

Mark Titterington, Engineering UK CEO, said: “The gender imbalance in engineering means we are missing out on great talent which, given the shortfalls that our latest research highlights, it can ill afford to do. Equally, women are also generally missing out on really exciting and impactful careers in engineering and contributing solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges.

“This needs to change and for that to happen we need to do more to show girls, at the earliest age possible, what modern engineering is all about and how they can follow what they love through these kind of careers.

“We know that participating in hands-on activities and speaking to an engineer have a positive impact on young people’s knowledge of engineering jobs and that is particularly true for girls. We want to build on that with sustained outreach and engagement activity, together with supporting communications campaigns such as This is Engineering, to inspire the next generation of girls to become engineers.”

‘Gender disparity in engineering’ builds on the data and analysis contained within the Engineering UK 2018 State of Engineering report and gives an overview of female progression along the STEM skills pipeline through education as well as women in the engineering workforce.

The briefing, which contains inputs from Cummins, UCL and the Royal Academy of Engineering, examines the underlying reasons for female underrepresentation and looks at both the business case for and the barriers to getting more women in the industry.

Attracting more women to engineering is a longstanding, sector-wide concern, with a number of campaigns now underway to tackle the issue and encourage a shift in thinking.

Charity Girlguiding announced a partnership with engineering firm Amey to encourage more young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Even toymaker Mattel has got in on the act, launching Robotics Engineer Barbie, a new version of the world-famous doll intended to promote STEM ambitions for young girls and improve the limited representation of women in technical fields

E&T recently featured new initiatives to creatively engage young female minds, as well as reporting on the gender pay gap and valuing women in engineering.

The ‘Gender disparity in engineering’ briefing is available free online.

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