International Women in Engineering Day this Sunday aims to raise the profile of women working in the sector and encourage more girls to consider engineering as a career by highlighting the opportunities on offer.
This year the theme of the Day is to #TransformTheFuture and to celebrate the centenary of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), noting the outstanding achievements, often unheralded, of female engineers throughout the world.
As a proposals engineer with Alpheus Environmental, water and wastewater management company, it is great to see such events taking place, which are critical to tackling the stigma surrounding women and engineering.
With the UK having the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe and the figure not set to rise any time soon, we are missing out on the skills, creativity and talent of women in this vitally important sector.
It is vital economically that we encourage more women into the profession. The UK needs to significantly increase its number of engineers. The STEM skills shortage is costing businesses £1.5 billion in recruitment every year and for the engineering sector to reduce its skills shortage it needs to employ around 186,000 recruits each year until 2024.
To bridge the gender gap much effort has been placed on encouraging women to go into engineering careers, a move which will greatly benefit the industry and the economy as a whole. However, these statistics indicate that there is still much to be done.
The solution is fundamental: we need more women to study STEM subjects at school and university. We must also ensure that young women and teachers are made aware of the full range of career opportunities on offer through qualifications in engineering.
That is why there is considerable merit in supporting employers’ initiatives with schools, helping girls to get a perspective on engineering careers and spreading the message.
This is something I have, and will be undertaking, talking to pupils and hopefully changing their perception of STEM subjects.
But the challenge to get more women into engineering often comes well before then, and that is within families, with parents often averse to their daughter entering a career in engineering. Educating parents, as well as the girls themselves, is therefore crucial.
If there are female engineers who can act as role models, the likelihood is that the women will have positive attitudes towards exploring STEM careers.
If we want world class infrastructure in the future we must take action now to ensure we have a world class workforce to deliver it now, aligning education policy with the needs of businesses and encouraging women to enter this profession.
Lauren Ertl is a proposals engineer at Alpheus Environmental
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