Today is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED)! The day was introduced in 2014 as part of a national campaign by the Women in Engineering Society (WES) to celebrate the amazing work that women engineers around the world are doing to support lives and livelihoods, and to encourage more young women and girls to venture into the profession.
There are now more than one million women working in core STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) roles throughout the UK. However, of that one million, only 50,000 of those are engineers. As such, women in engineering are still vastly underrepresented; as of June 2021, only 16.5% of all engineers were female.
The increase we’ve seen is partially down to organisations such as WISE (Women into Science and Engineering) and WES, who are actively working to encourage more women to join the sector. The engineering industry aims to have 1.5 million women working in STEM by 2030, making up 30% of the workforce. 30% is considered the ‘critical mass level’ in which women would have the ability to affect real change in the industry.
Why aren’t there more women in engineering?
The stereotype that engineering is a man’s career still exists to some degree, even in 2022! However, Kay Hussain, CEO of WISE, believes that the increasing number of employers actively looking to attract more female staff is helping to increase the number of women in the industry.
There is also a lack of female role models in engineering. A 2020 study from Microsoft revealed that the number of girls interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers almost doubles when they have a role model to inspire them. Having more visible female role models working to motivate girls about engineering careers while in education could positively influence the subjects they decide to study and the career path they choose to pursue.
WISE actively encourages engineering employers to engage with local schools, colleges, and universities. They want students to have opportunities to get involved with real-life engineering challenges, where they can experience how exciting engineering is, hopefully encouraging more students to consider a career in engineering.
Are you considering a career in engineering or supporting someone who is?
If you or someone you know wants to pursue a career in engineering, get clued up on what’s involved. You can ask teachers and career advisors, and even reach out to engineering companies for insights. In addition, organisations such as WES and WISE have valuable resources online. They host events, webinars, mentoring schemes, and operate regional hubs.
Routes into engineering
To become an engineer you must have the right skills and qualifications, and there are two primary ways you can get qualified. First, you can complete your A-levels and then attain an engineering degree. Alternatively, you can complete an engineering apprenticeship.
Studying maths and physics is often essential to becoming an engineer. However, chemistry and design technology are also beneficial choices, depending on what engineering career you want to pursue. The grades you need to get a place on an engineering degree course will depend on the university you’re applying to, so you’ll need to check their entry requirements on a case-by-case basis.
The degree you decide to study will be contingent on the engineering sector you’d like to work in, as your choice of engineering discipline will influence the graduate positions you’ll be eligible for. Some organisations actively seek employees with a more rounded knowledge, but employers typically require a specific degree for those in chemical, electrical or mechanical engineering.
Apprenticeships are available across various industries at intermediate, advanced, higher, and degree levels. Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly favourable as you can complete your qualifications while receiving paid on-the-job training. To apply for an engineering apprenticeship, you usually need good GCSEs in maths, IT, and science, and you need to be at least 16 years old.
As this year’s theme for International Women in Engineering Day is inventors and innovators, we wanted to highlight some prominent female engineers who’ve changed the world.
Ada Lovelace was a vital collaborator to Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine and used it to carry out calculations, the first-ever algorithms, decades before computers even existed!
Stephanie Kwolek accidentally discovered bulletproof fibre Kevlar in the 1960s while looking for something strong but lightweight for use in car tyres. Kevlar is five times stronger than steel by weight and is used today in bulletproof vests and mobile phone cases.
Tabitha Babbitt lived in Massachusetts in the 19th century and was dismayed by the wasted energy men expended while chopping wood with a two-person whipsaw. So, she developed a circular saw which could be connected to a water-powered machine to cut lumber.
Hedy Lamarr was a global film star in the 1930s and 40s, but in her spare time, she developed a technique called ‘frequency hopping’, which allowed the US military to control devices remotely. This technology has formed the basis for modern wireless communication, including WiFi!
Sarah Guppy had numerous inventions but she’s best known for her bridge-building contributions. Sarah’s first patent was creating safe piling for the foundations of bridges and her work helped support Bristol’s famous Clifton suspension bridge.
Engineering is one of the broadest sectors in the UK. It’s continually evolving and expanding, so if you want an interesting and exciting career that provides plenty of job opportunities, you should consider becoming an engineer.
If you’ve recently qualified in an engineering discipline and you’re looking for a new role, or you’re interested in an engineering career, our specialist engineering consultants have an abundance of experience in the industry and will be happy to help you find a role or offer you advice and support. If you’d like to get in touch with our team, you can call them on 01422 413 813 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.