Girls into Engineering? Read this first!

If you only look at one thing about Women in Engineering this year – I suggest you make it “Not for people like me.

I’ve been involved in promotion and campaigning for the past 25 years for girls in STEM, particularly engineering ….. so how are things looking?

The Statistics on Women in Engineering (compiled by the Women’s Engineering Society and updated in Feb 14) shows some stark figures:

  • Only 7% of the engineering workforce are women
  • In 2012, only 39% of female engineering graduates entered roles in engineering and technology, compared to 50% or males.
  • In 2013, 16% of those taking engineering or technology degrees were women.

And I’ve just looked up the A level results for last summer – maths 38% girls, physics only 21%.

But the most depressing thing is that the figures have barely changed over the decades.  It was this that lead Professor Averil Macdonald to make some hard hitting comments in her recent report “Not for People Like Me.”  This summary of the evidence of under-represented groups, particularly women, in science, engineering and technology, was sponsored by Network Rail, but is being made publically available, and could lead to a shift in the way we look at the whole issue.

I’ve got quite excited about this review.  Averil has looked pretty exhaustively at wealth of resource material from recent surveys, research and statistics, and produced a summary of what really makes a difference, and what doesn’t.  This in itself is quite useful, reinforcing, for example, my view that one off interventions can seem to give an instant boost, but, for girls in particular, they are often a waste of effort, or can do more harm than good.  This is why I’m very keen on the WES Sparxx Project.

But the most interesting conclusion is in the title, and has also come from the Kings College London, ASPIRES work (for which I advise) – that self-identity is hugely important, while acknowledging the impact of parental influence, good teaching and high quality careers advice.

I hope to be more involved with Averil’s work in coming months, which will include guides for teachers and companies, but in the meantime, if you only have time to read document, please start with “Not for people like me.”

What works and what doesn't