Sir / Madam
Today is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
Engineering is one sector where women remain woefully under-represented – just 9 per cent of UK engineers is female. Of course, it’s not the only industry or profession in which women are under-represented, but given the escalating skills crisis in engineering, it’s one that is particularly worth highlighting. Put bluntly, we need more young people to become engineers if the sector is to continue to fuel the UK economy, so we can’t afford to be failing to attract 50% of the population.
The good news is that we’re already starting to make inroads in this area. This year for example, more than half of the IET’s Diamond Jubilee Scholarships were awarded to female students. And, each year, we shine a light on the brightest and best female engineers though our Young Woman Engineer of the Year awards.
We’re also seeing more recognition of the role that female engineers have played in our world, with the Hidden Figures film telling the incredible story of the women who served as the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. An upcoming CBeebies series, Bitz and Bobs promises to bring the delights of engineering to pre-school children.
We all have a role to play. Industry could do more, especially in marketing their jobs to women. There are some good examples of companies who show creative ways of reaching out to women with their job adverts and flexible working patterns, and the results have been very positive.
The challenge may be great, but it’s important we persevere in raising awareness, recognising talent and promoting inspiring female engineering role models. Only by doing so will we be able to convince more girls that engineering is a creative, exciting and rewarding career choice.
Jeremy Watson CBE
Institution of Engineering and Technology