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Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

Much more has been written about the problem of women being underrepresented in STEM professions than has been written about how to solve it. Maybe because there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution?

Is it a ‘bottom up’ problem, or a ‘top down’ issue? If you listen to industry, it’s the former, and the government should be doing more to churn out the required number of STEM graduates they need. However, the government says industries should also play their part as it tries to tackle the gaps. Not so much in education itself, but the gender perceptions that are rife within the education system. But where are these perceptions coming from?

It might be fairer then to say that this is an overall societal problem related to how women are perceived and not just in STEM employment. Maybe we need to put more effort into changing ideas and perceptions than hitting targets for required subjects in schools?

An interesting US case study carried out in 1957 found that children up to the age of five, who were asked to draw a scientist, didn’t picture a middle-aged man with a beard and glasses in a lab coat. They had no preconceived idea of what a scientist ‘should’ look like. This shows that the perceptions today of male and female gender stereotypes are not inherent, but learned, whether at school or at home.

“Introduce a Girl to Engineering day” aims to change these perceptions, helping young girls from ages 12-19 to unlock their potential as a brilliant engineer. With events across the globe held by schools and organisations like Airbus, National Composites Centre, University of Warwick and University of Salford there are countless ways for girls to become inspired to choose STEM subjects. 

What does the future hold?

It is possible that the problem will eventually resolve itself through evolution or the continued gender battle sweeping through various sectors, and employers being set targets to get women into their workforce. Girls are now being exposed to technology from the minute they can walk and talk, they can handle smart phones and tablets as well as any boy, which could be a real game changer for the future of STEM women in the workforce.

Unless STEM sectors show there is a place for women, women might want to go and work in those areas. Choosing instead an office based role for example in marketing or administration. Not knowing that careers such as a civil, or chemical engineer can be office-based.  If they are not seeing the benefit of pursuing STEM studies and careers, it’s up to employers and recruiters to be ahead of the game.

What can Recruiters do?

  • Provide, and make known, more apprenticeship programmes to entice both young women and men who can work and study together. This can help neutralise gender bias, changing the system from within.
  • Have a woman from a leadership position on the interviewing team. A group of men in suits can be intimidating. Having a female leader there could be intimidating, however having a female leader there could also provide assurances that opportunities do exist for women within the organisation.

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