Throughout my Mechanical Engineering degree at Southampton University, there were only four women on the course in comparison to 95 men. Despite this being over 20 years’ ago, dynamics still haven’t changed.
In fact, according to research around women in STEM, only 15% of engineering graduates are female. And more broadly the percentage of women in STEM for technology and mathematics is a similar picture. Only 19% of computer studies graduates and 38% of maths graduates are women. With only 13% of the overall UK STEM workforce being women, these stats aren’t exactly surprising.
But one of the reasons why women aren’t entering the industry is because there isn’t enough education around what STEM roles actually entail. There’s currently a misnomer about roles in engineering, for example – many see this as a job that involves oily rags and spanners, but it goes way beyond that. An engineering career can in fact help women in their journey to becoming a successful, inspirational leader.
Research from WISE has revealed that the UK is on target to employ 1 million women in STEM roles, which is extremely encouraging to see. However, in order to meet this target, we need to continue educating young females, especially those who are in the A-level decision making progress, on the career opportunities that are available, and inspire them to go on and study subjects like engineering.
Women in STEM isn’t all just a case of making the workforce fair – we actually need more women in STEM roles to make scientific innovations useful and, more importantly, safe. When it comes to new innovations, how relevant can these be if they’re not taking into consideration the needs of half the population?
In addition, encouraging women to succeed in STEM roles is extremely beneficial financially, according to research from McKinsey Global Institute. The survey discovered that gender parity in the workplace could add up to $28 trillion (or 26%) to annual global GDP by 2025.
So while there are plans to employ more females in STEM roles in the next year, it’s important we continue to inform and inspire them at the earliest stages of their education to pursue these types of careers, and show how their work can significantly benefit the industry.