Lauren Ertl, Proposals Engineer with Alpheus Environmental, looks to encourage more women into engineering to mark International Women in Engineering Day on Sunday.
This Sunday, 23rd June, marks International Women in Engineering Day. Its aim is to raise the profile of women in engineering and encourage more girls and young women to consider engineering as a career, highlighting the amazing 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.
Right now, just 5 per cent of engineers in Scotland are women and only 10 per cent of those undertaking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) apprenticeships are women.
With the UK having the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe and the figure not set to rise anytime soon we are missing out on the skills, creativity and talent of women in this vitally important sector.
It is also 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, there is still much to be done if these statistics are anything to go by.
The solution is fundamental, we need more women to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, both at school and university. We must also ensure that young women are made aware of the full range of amazing career opportunities on offer through qualifications in engineering and that teachers are aware of these.
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 about the opportunities that this sector has to offer.
This activity is something I have and will be undertaking, talking to pupils and making them aware of the diverse career options available, which will hopefully change 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.