With the first National Women in Engineering Day taking place next week, Julie-Anne Ryan looks at some of the events being held on the day, and talks to the people involved.
One of the biggest problems in engineering at the moment is the growing skills shortage, and it’s a subject that can’t be addressed without considering the gender gap.
As regular NCE readers will know, statistics surrounding the number of women in the industry - between 7% and 9% of all engineers - have been described as “a disgrace” by business secretary Vince Cable. As the buzz around the issue grows, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) has organised the first National Women in Engineering Day - on 23 June - to celebrate the organisation’s 95th anniversary.
There will be a large number of events going on around the UK, some of which are highlighted here. A major part of the initiative has been to involve schools, to underline the vital importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects from an early age.
WES has sent information packs to more than 200 schools to help them get on board, and has a register of women engineers geared up to give talks.
WES executive vice president Dawn Bonfield says: “We have been amazed at the number of organisations who have shown an interest in this inaugural day, and the innovative ways they have come up with to reach out to young people to tell them about engineering. Companies in the civil engineering sector in particular have shown a real readiness to engage with this initiative.”
Among them is Crossrail, whose education programme for young people and teachers Young Crossrail has been working with MyKindaCrowd to run an online competition provoking students to think of creative ways to encourage the next generation of female engineers into industry.
On National Women in Engineering Day, 30 winners of this competition will take part in a programme of training and speed networking with successful engineers and visit a Crossrail site. Five winners will be given e-mentoring sessions with Crossrail staff.
Arup group board director Alan Belfield says the consultant will be celebrating National Women in Engineering Day and “helping to raise awareness of the importance of promoting women in this field”. He adds: “At
Arup we take gender equality very seriously and have a number of targeted corporate initiatives to help promote women in engineering fields.”
The Highways Agency is marking the day by sponsoring a conference - Women in Engineering: the Challenge - at Birmingham’s Think Tank Museum. Its chief executive Graham Dalton says: “Attracting, retaining and developing capable people to deliver our expanding programme of work is one of the challenges that as an industry we need to rise to - attracting, retaining and developing more women is part of the solution.
“Intelligence that we have gathered indicates that, whilst many of us are working on retaining and developing female talent, none of us have yet achieved the rich balanced pipelines of talent that we need or want. We need to do more, and it seems sensible to get together to take stock and discuss next steps.”
- For more information on National Women in Engineering Day go to www.nwed.org.uk/events
Women in Engineering: The Challenge
Conference to discuss options and find out what others are doing to address the challenge. Speakers include Jenny Willott, minister for women and equality; Arup director Dervilla Mitchell; Nina Skorupska, CEO of the Renewable Energy Association; Atkins chairman Allan Cook; and Barry Brooks, president of The Institution of Engineering and Technology.
When: 9am to 4pm
Where: Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1 Birdcage Walk, London SW1H 9JJ.
- For more information go to www.wes.org.uk/wie
Atkins’ Bristol office is organising an event to showcase the ways in which the company attracts and retains women. The event is for Atkins employees, local educators and clients, and will include a networking lunch and a talk from recent Women in Engineering and Science vice president, Sarah Peers.
Where: Atkins, The Hub, 500 Park Avenue, Aztec West, Almondsbury, Bristol BS32 4RZ. Tel: 01454 662382
The Strathclyde Women in Science and Engineering group is hosting an event showcasing female engineers working in academia and industry. These women will speak about their careers, and provide insight into some of the career paths engineering can lead to. The presentations will be followed by a Q&A session with the panel of speakers, and the chance to network with female PhD students.
Where: University of Strathclyde, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Level 5, James Weir Building, 75 Montrose Street, Glasgow, G1 1XJ
The Scottish Circle of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and Equate Scotland are hosting a joint event in Glasgow. Speakers include Atkins chief engineer Sue Cresswell and university of Glasgow professor of biomedical materials Liz Tanner.
When: 6pm to 9pm
Where: The IET: Teacher Building, 14 St Enoch Square, Glasgow G1 4DB
- Register at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/WES23June
Women in Research, Engineering & Design (WIRED) is an all-day enrichment event for Year 10 and 11 students studying GCSE options in maths, physics, chemistry, ICT, art, graphics, and design technology.
When: 9.45am to 2.30 pm
Where: School of Engineering & Digital Arts, University of Kent, Canterbury Campus
Inventing the Future
Panel event on inventions organised by the Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering.
Panellists include Laura James, co-founder and director of Makespace; and Tim Minshall, reader in technology and innovation management at the department of engineering at the University of Cambridge
When: 6pm to 8pm
- For more information and booking go to www.camawise.org.uk/awise-panel-event-on-invention/
Women in Engineering
Presentations and discussion on how individuals and organisations can best raise the profile of women in construction, and support the STEM agenda. Speakers include Environment Agency director Sally Sudworth; Network Rail Wales Route area director Sarah Kendall; Welsh Government deputy director, network management Sheena Hague; and Sarah Hopkins, director of human resources for Wales & West Utilities.
When: 6pm to 8.30pm
Where: Trevithick Lecture Theatre (T2/09), Cardiff School of Engineering, The Parade, Cardiff CF24 3AA.
- Book at www.ice.org.uk/wales/WomenInEngineering