Fewer than one in 10 parents of girls believes engineering appeals to their children, according to research published today.
Only 6% of those questioned by the Institution of Engineering and Technology said the career would be attractive to their daughters.
Meanwhile 28% of parents of boys said engineering would be interesting to their sons.
This meant engineering was perceived as the 17th most popular choice for girls, and the 3rd most popular for boys.
The top three perceived most attractive careers for girls were education and childcare; the arts; and healthcare. Hair and beauty was fourth.
However, 39% of girls questioned said they enjoyed design and technology, with the same proportion liking computer studies.
Two-thirds of girls said they enjoyed drawing or designing things, and four in 10 that they liked making and building.
The research was conducted across January and February 2015 with more than 1,000 children aged between 9 and 12 and their parents.
IET president William Webb said: “STEM subjects form the backbone of the engineering industry and help it to continue growing and innovating.
“We see clearly from this research that girls do have a genuine interest in these areas but this doesn’t translate to the number of women entering the engineering industry.
“The data from our research clearly shows a need to engage better with girls and their parents about the importance of STEM subjects and the world of opportunities they can open up for young people in the engineering industry.”
He called for a shift in the image of engineering.
“The key to doing this is by changing the perceptions of parents who are highly influential in their child’s decision making processes and showing them that engineering doesn’t have to be a messy, mechanical or physically demanding career choice,” he said.
IET has developed the Engineer a Better World campaign, which looks to engage with parents and their children about the industry.
“It’s only by making the right resources and information available that we can ensure the engineering sector of the future has the rich and diverse mix of talent it needs to carry on growing and innovating,” said Webb.
Paul Jackson, chief executive of promotion body Engineering UK, said: “As a community we need to overcome negative and/or outdated perceptions of engineering to encourage more young people to consider it as a career option.
“Campaigns such as Engineer a Better World help showcase the range of fantastic opportunities offered by engineering and, crucially, give parents the information and tools they need to support the potential engineers of the future.”