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Engineering needs women

Miranda Housden

Engineering in the UK is not only facing a skills gap, but also a gender gap, with women making up less than 10% of the engineering workforce - the lowest percentage in Europe.

Moreover, 65% of girls say they wouldn’t consider a career in engineering, with many citing that it’s not a suitable or attractive career for women.

While this is not a new problem and is widely recognised, clearly more needs to be done to address this issue. A change in attitude is needed not only in schools, but also at home, in those who carry influence over the GSCE subjects youngsters select.

Research carried out by Engineering UK shows that 91% of women effectively rule themselves out of a job in engineering by not choosing triple science at age 14.

And recent government research found that 76% of parents with daughters admit they haven’t encouraged them to consider engineering as a career option.

In 2014 ICE London will be playing its part in the Institution’s wider efforts to create a more diverse workforce.

We will be focusing on a select group of schools across London, including the new Sir Simon Milton Foundation University Technical College, and targeting 11 to 18 year olds to help change their perceptions of engineering.

This will include site visits to demonstrate engineering in action, guest speakers from the industry and advice to show the range of career paths available.

This programme will build on the work ICE London undertook during Tomorrow’s Engineers week in November at the Central Foundation Girls School, Bow, which saw Queen Elizabeth Prize winner and internet pioneer Louis Pouzin address 100 female students.

Work experience is also crucial in changing the perception of engineering, and ICE London is planning to work with civil engineering firms acrossLondon to create meaningful work experience opportunities for youngsters.

And we are continuing our short film series, this time in collaboration with the Queen Elizabeth Prize, to produce a film aimed at inspiring a broader mix of school children to pursue a career in engineering and to believe that it’s within their grasp.

The film will take the viewer on a journey from the classroom to London’s award winning projects showing how often perceived “boring” classes in maths and science shape and contribute to London’s future.

The most recent short film, Engineering the London Underground, was highly successful, reaching over 893,000 people.

Finally, we will continue our public engagement programme, with our fourth annual partnership with Open City for Open House Weekend, which in 2013 saw over 11,000 Londoners visit engineering related projects and 1.8M viewers visit the website. After attending an ICE event during the weekend, 80% of respondents reported a greater understanding of the engineer’s role in designing and building London’s infrastructure.

An encouraging statistic, and we hope our public and schools engagement work in 2014 will build on this and ultimately help to inspire and encourage the next generation of civil engineers.

  • Miranda Housden is ICE London regional director

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