Women engineers’ woes get public airing in e-mail forum

An on-line debate by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (Post) on women in engineering, science and technology has highlighted the difficulties of recruiting women into the profession. The consultation, which was to run until today (12 November) may be extended due to the scale of the reaction. The female engineers and scientists involved […]

An on-line debate by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (Post) on women in engineering, science and technology has highlighted the difficulties of recruiting women into the profession.

The consultation, which was to run until today (12 November) may be extended due to the scale of the reaction. The female engineers and scientists involved have voiced concerns over the need for more opportunities to take career breaks to have children, and for more flexibility on working hours, including more part-time work and job sharing.

A report of the debate’s findings will be presented to the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Select Committee on 8 December, as part of a wider report entitled Science and Society.

Post director Professor David Cope said inequality in engineering and science was much worse than in other professions. `We are hoping to raise the profile of the issue. If we can get women to account for 30% of employees across the sector, our job will be done,’ he said. Presently only 2.3% of chartered engineers are women.

Marie-Noelle Barton, manager of the Women into Science and Engineering campaign, welcomed the chance to bring the lack of female engineers to the attention of the Government.

She blamed the imbalance on stereotyping by parents and teachers: `Girls are outperforming boys in all subjects, but we are not exciting them enough about going into engineering.’

There are successful role models, however, including Pam Liversidge, managing director of Quest Investments. She is one of the few female fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and is a former president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

`I got where I am in the same way as most men: by being focused on what I wanted to achieve. Discrimination tends to disappear as you become more senior,’ Liversidge said.

`A perception problem prevents women coming into engineering, including the myth that engineers have dirty hands and spend their time in boiler suits,’ she added.

* More details of the on-line debate can be found at: mailbase.ac.uk/lists/hansardd