Are schools not doing enough to encourage young women to become engineers?

1 min read

We've been talking over the last couple of weeks about the need to encourage school students to consider a career in engineering.

There have been a number of suggestions about how to do this: last week, amongst other ideas, EngineeringUK called for schools to offer 'career inspiration' to 11 to 14 year olds and for them to be given broader opportunities to meet industry leaders and to 'experience the workplace'. One issue which has been on this agenda for some time is how to attract young women into a career in engineering. The percentage of women in the UK's engineering community hovers around the top end of single figures and it's believed that women could make a major contribution to the profession and to solving the ongoing skills shortage. There have been countless discussions about why this is, but a report from the Institute of Physics (IoP) may shed some light on the issue. It says almost half of state funded mixed schools in England are 'reinforcing gender stereotypes' in terms of the subjects students study at A level. Whether that's the case or whether they try but fail is open to debate. School students, it's said, need to be convinced of the opportunities of an engineering career by the time they're 14. Those with experience of girls around this age will be well aware of the challenges; in many cases, their focus is elsewhere and even if they are considering a more scientific path, peer pressure is a powerful force. Professor Peter Main, the IoP's director of education and science, said: "It's going to take whole school initiatives to overcome these biases." That's true, but it's also a problem that needs to be addressed beyond school gates.