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Women in Core-STEM
John Beirne
20 Posts

Thank you for your comments,

Attracting more female talent to the UK engineering sector and retaining those people is vital for economic growth and financial stability.  Britain suffers from an acute shortage of engineers: according to Heatrecruitment, 1.8 million new engineers and technicians are needed by 2025.  However, some may say this figure has or will dramatically change due to the Coronavirus.

Donnelly from the Guardian infers ‘Sustained efforts to persuade women to pursue engineering careers is yielding fruit, albeit slowly’.  “When WES started in 1919, there were no female engineers, and 50 years later only half a percent of all engineers in the UK were women,”  “Now, we’re beginning to make quite considerable inroads, so it’s an exciting time to join a sector that will change radically over the next 50 years.”  Data from WISE conferms ‘that there are now just over a million women in core-STEM; representing an increase of over 350,000 in the last ten years. This means that women now make up 24% of the core-STEM workforce.

The 100 Influential Women in UK Engineering list showcases exceptional women role models, from organisations such as Arup, BAE Systems, Dyson, Laing O’Rourke and Network Rail.  Brief comments from three of those women are as follows:

Jane Atkinson, Executive Director of Engineering and Automation for Bilfinger UK, had been named number one on the list.  She said: “Having good role models is critical to attracting new diverse talent.  In the engineering world, there are many jobs and professions that an engineer can do, getting the public to understand this and show people that anyone can do it will ultimately make engineering more attractive.”

Elizabeth Oni-Iyiola, Development Director at Inclusive Boards, said: “Engineers have an impact on almost every area of our day to day lives.  Those featured are role models who inspire those around them and demonstrate leadership and influence in the work that they do.”

Bridget Rosewell CBE, Senior Independent Director at Network Rail, said:  “It is not only about engaging women, but there is also a need to engage men more effectively to promote an inclusive working environment.  The workplace should be family-friendly by incorporating more flexible working hours. There is also a need to respect and value distinction and difference.”

Out of interest, for those who have time, an interesting read can be found at the following link:

Engineering a time for change: https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2019/jun/26/how-changing-attitudes-are-closing-the-gender-gap-in-engineering

Additionally, links to StemWomen and WES can also be found below:

https://www.stemwomen.co.uk/blog/2019/09/women-in-stem-percentages-of-women-in-stem-statistics

https://www.wes.org.uk 

VE Day is soon to be upon us and we should not forget Beatrice ‘Tilly’ Shilling; originally one of Margaret Partridge’s apprentices, the founder member of the Women's Engineering Society ( WES).  Beatrice invented an adaption to Spitfire and Merlin engines (nicknamed Miss Shilling’s Orifice by the RAF) which stopped the engines flooding during manoeuvres, thus preventing the aircraft from crashing.  This modification was thought to have played a significant role in Britain’s ability to win the Battle of Britain.

Inspiring either sexes into engineering, science or computer based subjects has been, in the past couple of decades, an uphill struggle.  However, over the past few years I have witnessed that tide change direction mainly through the apprenticeship schemes.  We must all play our part and do our utmost to engage with young people and inspire them into our world.  Lets keep up the good work.

2 Replies
I have some experience of girls and Engineering interest in an independent girls school where I worked for a period. The IET and many others have not quite understood what drives youngsters to particular interests, and in particular Engineering. It is not PC to say what I am going to report, but the reason is that boys and girls are completely different in the way their brains work in many ways. I have four children, 3 boys and a girl. There has been many aspects of Engineering all around them all their lives and yet none are the slightest bit interested, they have seen the slog. My daughter is very practical, a Doctor, and at one stage was interested in surgery. She was entirely stopped by the male surgeons (sorry Chris) who she encountered, who were rude, had terrific egos and incapable of including her in their Group. It also didn't help that they were afraid of her intellect, and even said so. The outside view of Engineering is that it is rough, dirty and full of people who are unhelpful, and that women are likely to be treated as prizes "because they are women" and given positive discrimination to keep them in place. Whilst none of this may be true (not entirely my experience) Engineering is considered difficult, and badly paid, and not worth the considerable effort required to learn to do the job, especially the further up the tree you want to get. If there is such a shortage as you report, why are salaries less than similarly qualified Doctors, Lawyers, etc? Look at the IET jobs page, you are lucky to get much more than certain manual jobs, can earn as tradesmen (if you are any good), or a job in a Bank. Partly this is the Universities, Arts courses have 6 hours contact and the rest of the week to write a couple of Essays. Engineering training is expensive, so they have cut corners to the point where those graduating are destined to learn on the job, and the teaching does not match the requirements for employment very well. The result is that women who are interested generally end up writing software, which they do not find that interesting, so do something else. Doctors are made to work very hard during the training period (10-15 years) but they are trained very well. Engineering is at least as difficult but very few employers actually train anyone much, and certainly don't make the candidates work like junior doctors, because they would get nobody if they did! Unfortunately it appears that the old adage has been forgotten "The best Engineers are born not made" and to succeed one really needs to work because you love it, not because one is being paid. Everything is wrong, in school girls in general don't like science or maths, Universities don't teach useful skills and knowledge, salaries are not attractive, and proper Engineering is difficult and needs much creativity, which is not nurtured anywhere. Then the good engineers are made to manage if they want to progress which dilutes the pool even more. Things were much better for Brunel or other Victorians, they did things well and quickly, and worked very hard indeed and were famous. Dyson and JCB are the only two I can think of now, I wonder why that is?
Andy Millar
1730 Posts
John Beirne:

VE Day is soon to be upon us and we should not forget Beatrice ‘Tilly’ Shilling; originally one of Margaret Partridge’s apprentices, the founder member of the Women's Engineering Society ( WES).  Beatrice invented an adaption to Spitfire and Merlin engines (nicknamed Miss Shilling’s Orifice by the RAF) which stopped the engines flooding during manoeuvres, thus preventing the aircraft from crashing.  This modification was thought to have played a significant role in Britain’s ability to win the Battle of Britain.

And indeed all the women who worked perfectly happily in a huge range of engineering activities in both world wars - including heavy factory work - but had to stop at the end because "those jobs were needed for the men".

The UK engineering profession (at least in those sectors represented by the PEIs) does seem to be one of the slowest of the professions to change and adapt - which I always find deeply ironic for a profession that's supposed to be based around innovation! But it is changing.

Excellent post John.

Thanks,

Andy

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