Every year we celebrate Women in Engineering Day, but, we should be celebrating it every day. With women still in the minority in engineering jobs (but shortening that gap every year) it’s more important than ever to make sure that we promote engineering careers to women and ensure that they have every opportunity to join, advance and remain within the Engineering sciences.
Working in engineering recruitment I have seen progress over the last few years, with more female engineering candidates available, which shows that we are studying engineering at university level (it’s still very definitely male dominated but, we are catching up).
We now need to make sure that we are creating working environments to encourage women to stay in industry after university. But how do we do that? We do it by providing decent careers advice in schools and most importantly by giving young girls the engineering role models they deserve.
When I was in secondary school I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a teacher because I had the most amazing history teacher in the world. She told me I could achieve anything if I put the hard work in. She encouraged me to do my best in everything. She was my hero, my role model and I wanted to be just like her. When girls are looking for role models we don’t give them engineers, and we should be.
In 2016 the film Hidden Figures came out. It told the story of the female mathematicians, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan and Katherine Johnson who worked at NASA and played an undisputed part of putting the first American into orbit and bringing him back safely. But, as the name of the film suggests, they are not exactly well known for their contribution;, even though it’s likely that John Glenn wouldn’t have made it back to earth without Mary Jackson’s knowledge. These women, hidden for so long, can now shine as the role models of future female mathematicians everywhere. That is obviously a good thing but, I cannot think of any such films doing the same for female engineers (please, correct me if I’m wrong because I want to watch films like that). Representation of female characters in STEM in movies and TV is poor (getting better). We’ve had anthropologists, palaeontologists, computer scientists but precious few engineers. There’ are so many pioneering women whose stories we could tell, so let’s tell them!
Let’s shout their names out loud enough so that girls all over the world hear them and become inspired.
Let’s give girls the engineering role models that they need and most certainly deserve.
Take a look at our series: Women in Industry
We wanted to showcase the most influential women in history who have contributed to discoveries in science. Some of these women you may have heard of and some are unsung heroines. Here are three of our latest examples: