INWED18: Bringing engineering careers to life is required to inspire young women engineers

women engineerswomen engineersBoeing’s HR Director for Europe & Israel, Sally Hoyle (top), and Cranfield’s Prof Helen Atkinson CBE FREng (below) explain how showing young women what a career in engineering can look like is the best way to inspire the next generation of women engineers.

STEM industries are at the heart of the UK’s economic, intellectual and historical life. We have a proud history of industrial and engineering powerhouses across the country that carry world-leading industrial legacies that have helped power the UK’s prosperity. By embracing new technology and Industry 4.0, the UK can maintain and enhance its reputation for innovation, skills and development.

In order to take advantage of this new technology revolution, the UK needs a strong STEM education and skills base to drive prosperity and productivity. And, with the need for continuous innovation in the face of unprecedented change, and with a large skills gap looming, it has never been more important to inspire and encourage more people, especially women, to choose a career in engineering.

Sadly, we’re falling short. As the Women’s Engineering Society has highlighted, women currently make up just 11 per cent of the engineering sector in the UK.

We can, however, change this, and it is the responsibility of established organisations to celebrate women engineers, raise the profile of women in STEM and engineering, and demonstrate a commitment to diversity in order to inspire future generations.

women engineers
Female engineers are welcomed at Boeing

That’s why this month, as last year, our respective organisations – Boeing and Cranfield University – are supporting International Women in Engineering Day (INWED18). We are sponsoring INWED18 as it hosts 150 separate events across the country, plus 18 international events in locations such as Brazil and Uganda, aimed at inspiring young women to become engineers and encouraging institutions to ‘Raise the Bar’ in their hiring of women.

As industry professionals, we know that, in addition to this, industry and institutions must take the lead in inspiring young women by showing them what we do and provide them with the information they need to make the best decisions about their future careers.

We have teamed up for the second year running to hold an event this week on the Cranfield campus for female students aged 11-16, ahead of INWED18 on Saturday (June 23). The event’s itinerary has been designed to demonstrate the practicalities of technical careers whilst showing the students the connection between the STEM subjects they take at school and the impressive careers they can lead to.

They will participate in fun, hands-on activities with cutting edge equipment provided by Boeing, Cranfield and our partners, getting to grips with virtual reality headsets, drones, robotics and simulators and taking part in interactive engineering challenges.  They’ll also meet some of the leading figures and companies in the sector, and discuss one-on-one the trajectories to a successful career in engineering.

The event, we hope, will show the students possibilities for their careers that they have not thought of before, and inspire them to take the right steps towards an engineering degree or training.

Uncapping the huge talent pool represented by the female population will unlock potential and create a more creative culture, fertile for new ideas and innovation. Ultimately, this will keep the UK’s technical sector competitive. A diverse engineering sector is not just an economic imperative, it’s a moral imperative too. Supporting young women by utilising the resources and capabilities at our disposal is core to both Boeing’s and Cranfield’s values and should be central to the industry’s approach to the challenges of the future.

Sally Hoyle is HR Director for Boeing Europe and Israel and Professor Helen Atkinson CBE FREng is Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of School of Aerospace, Transport Systems and Manufacturing at Cranfield University. Prof Atkinson is Chair of the Reference Group for the Royal Academy of Engineering ‘This is Engineering’ campaign http://www.thisisengineering.org.uk/ aimed at encouraging more young people to see how exciting careers in engineering are.

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