Semta's Chief Executive Ann Watson shares her views on the latest news, policy, issues and events of interest to the engineering and advanced manufacturing sector. 


Tuesday, 23 June 2015 01:00

National Women in Engineering Day: Positive response, but more to be done

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Ann Watson NWED selfieToday is National Women in Engineering Day, and the response from across the world of engineering has been hugely encouraging and positive. So many companies - big and small - are holding events, publicising their support on social media and showcasing the talented women they have working for them.

We are starting from a low base, with just 7% of the engineering workforce being female, but even here there are grounds for optimism, with that representing a 10% rise since 2011 – and the more women we start to see entering and returning to the sector, the more inspired to consider a career in engineering other girls and women will be. Encouragingly, over half of pupils taking Physics at GCSE are female – but with only around a fifth of A Level Physics students being female, it's clear that more needs to be done to encourage girls with an aptitude for and interest in science and engineering to progress.

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.

Read 5445 times Last modified on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 15:34