CEO, Women’s Engineering Society (WES)
Pictured above: Female technicians from the University of Nottingham support all areas of teaching and research.
The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) was founded after the First World War, to support women engineers who had worked in munitions factories while men served in the armed forces. As the men returned from war, so those female engineers were forced to return to the domestic sphere.
Fast forward 100 years and the world is a very different place, but not so different for women engineers. Figures from Engineering UK show that just over 12% of the engineering workforce are women, compared with 47% of the overall UK workforce.
“Engineers install solar panels in remote African health outposts giving people access to electricity.”
WES continues to support women engineers and its mission is to change perceptions of engineering, increase diversity in the sector and motivate young women and girls to choose an engineering career. Many of its members are STEM ambassadors who visit schools, run engineering workshops and work to inspire young people.
“Women bring a different perspective”
Elizabeth Donnelly, CEO of WES, believes diversity of thought is vital for the future of the industry. “The essence of engineering is problem solving and improving people’s lives. Women bring a different perspective to that. It’s exciting when that happens but there’s just not enough of it.”
She knows many young women and girls are put off by stereotypical images of men in hard hats and nervous about having to grapple with complicated technical calculations.
Engineering UK also reports that, although girls out-perform boys in most GCSE and A level STEM subjects, relatively few progress to engineering apprenticeships or degrees.
Missed potential is frustrating
Professor Karen Holford, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University finds that missed potential frustrating. “We have to help young girls understand the impact engineering has on our lives and what engineers actually do. They ensure water security, find solutions for cleaner energy and ways to combat climate change. Engineers install solar panels in remote African health outposts giving people access to electricity. They design better sanitation systems and create vital tools to help disabled people live fuller lives. It’s exciting stuff.”
What happened at International Women in Engineering Day 2020 (INWED)?