International Women’s Day: How do we close the gender gap in engineering?

International Women's Day: 8th March  2016 (photo courtesy of branislavpudar, Shutterstock).
International Women's Day: 8th March 2016 (photo courtesy of branislavpudar, Shutterstock).

The subject of women in engineering has been in the spotlight for some time now, and this International Women’s Day, women across the world will be challenging perceptions of what it means to be an engineer, and why the industry needs them.

To commemorate the day, pump supplier Neutronic Technologies, has produced an in-depth and unique report exploring the subject of women in engineering, and the challenges that are currently being faced.

The report, entitled ‘Women in Engineering: What can be done to fix the gender gap?’, aims to explore the current situation in the industry, predict the future of engineering and, most importantly, celebrate the women who are leading the way forward.

Advice from women in engineering  

To gain a true insight into the situation, Neutronic Technologies spoke to four women who have made waves in engineering and manufacturing.

After years of studying, working and teaching in the industry, each of these women gave their recommendations on how the gender gap can be closed, and what needs to be done to encourage more girls to take up STEM subjects.

Changing perceptions of the industry  

Although research has shown that people’s perceptions of the industry are changing, with research by Neutronic showing that 60% of people believe that engineering and manufacturing have become more attractive to women in the past 10 years, there is still a long way to go before the gender gap is suitably narrowed.

Lucy Ackland, a Project Manager who started her career through an apprenticeship, believes that changing people’s outside perceptions will be the first step towards getting more women into the field: “The industry should make an effort to dismiss common misconceptions about engineering workplaces. Nowadays, engineering facilities are clean, modern and interesting places to work. However, many people still think of them as the dirty, unattractive manufacturing facilities from decades ago.”

Educating parents early on  

All eyes will usually fall on schools when children and young people come to choose the subjects that will influence their future. But many people forget that a great deal of influence also lies with the parents. Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, Professor of Enterprise and Engineering Education at the University of Sheffield, believes that the role of parents should not be underestimated when inspiring youngsters to enter the world of engineering.

“I think a lot has been done to encourage young girls to take up sciences at an early age. But by the time they are encouraged, it’s too late,” she commented. “Mum and dad are the first influences of what we perceive to be a boy’s job or a girl’s job; what it means to be a girl and what it means to be a boy. Mum and dad tend to not know what an engineer or scientist is.

“What we need to do is train mum and dad, so that they can train the little ones.”

Read the report in full, here.