At last I think we are all feeling that there is momentum behind the effort to achieve true diversity in engineering. Every day we hear of initiatives by companies large and small and even the Government is getting behind the campaign.
So what still needs to be done, the ultimate goal must be a long term solution to the shortage of engineers for British industry. We need to look at the immediate actions that can be taken to improve the image of engineering to potential future female engineers, this needs to be addressed in schools and industry in terms of culture, the language used, career breaks and board positions as well as equality of pay.
Schools need to focus on closer links with local employers, as well as ensuring good career advice. To achieve this career advisers and teachers need to be trained in the long term benefits of a career in engineering. This should include the global opportunities available, the broad base of career options in so many industries from space to electronics, automotive to structural engineering. Schools also need to lead the encouragement of young people to study the STEM subjects particularly Maths and Physics through to A Level and talk to parents about the opportunities available to girls.There is still a great deal of work needed specifically with girls to show them that a career in engineering is suitable for their skill sets. Girls are very aware of the global issues relating to clean water, global warming, and cleaner fuels and by becoming an engineer they have a real chance of making a difference to the future in these areas. Engineering in today’s high technology environment needs creativity and design, problem solving and team work and great communication skills, all of which are natural female skills.
Companies need to encourage female engineers to aspire to senior roles within their organisation, by supporting career breaks and finding ways of retaining their talented women. There is good news, UCAS released the numbers of students taking up engineering courses in 2013 and the number has increased by 2000 since 2012. Clearly a tiny step towards the additional 100,000 engineers the UK needs in the next 10 years, but at least it is an increase.
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