It's clear from today that, when it comes to the need to attract more women to the sector, engineering firms get it. From the government's response – the Prime Minister himself has tweeted his support – it looks like ministers and policymakers are getting it as well. However, there remains a disconnection between the government's supportive rhetoric and the policies it is implementing.
For example, the government has no plans to reintroduce compulsory work experience in secondary schools, which would give so many girls a first taste of engineering. Careers advice is to be reformed by getting JobCentre Plus advisers involved, which may push girls towards considering easy to fill local vacancies instead of the engineering career that would make the best use of their talents. More could be done to train science teachers to encourage girls who would make great engineers, and much more could be done to help primary teachers to nurture girls who like to build things and find out how things work.
The reward for our country, if we can encourage more girls and women to become engineers, is clear. Our engineering companies can only survive and thrive in the global race if they have a workforce with the right mix of skills and aptitudes. We are going to need 800,000 people to enter the STEM labour market by 2020 to meet skills needs – and if there were as many women in engineering as there are men, the skills shortage would not exist.
National Women in Engineering Day is an important showcase for the women who are already achieving great things in the sector, and a fine advert to women and girls who might go on to do so. Let's keep up this momentum so that, in a year's time, we have even more women in engineering to celebrate.