Guest post by Amina Khalid, NWED Coordinator
23 June 2015
National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) will take place on the 23rd of June this year and will be celebrated across the UK to help inspire the next generation of female engineers.
Last year, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) launched NWED to celebrate their 95th anniversary, and as a way of encouraging external organisations and establishments to promote engineering among girls. By uniting thousands of people on NWED, WES aims to bridge the gap between women and engineering, encouraging more girls across the UK to consider engineering as a serious profession.
Over 250 schools and 100 organisations around the UK celebrated NWED last year by hosting their own engineering-related activities and events. The day provides the perfect opportunity to directly dispel gender barriers while promoting diversity and equality in engineering among young people. This is achieved by encouraging as many people, establishments and organisations as possible to host their own engineering-related events and activities in order to reveal the true, exciting and diverse identity of engineering. After the success of last year’s event, WES are looking to make NWED bigger and better this year and hope to encourage a lot more people and organisations to get involved and help promote engineering to more young women.
WES’s strong support for women engineers is backed by its rich history dating back to the first war. 95 years ago in post-World War I Britain, a group of female pioneers led by Lady Parsons campaigned against the government to allow women to remain in the workforce and uphold the roles of engineers and technicians that they had once adopted during the war. These women not only challenged the traditional majority view, but they laid the foundations for gender equality and diversity within engineering. They were not content with the government’s decision to pressure women to step down after the war, during which they had played a major role in the running of affairs. This double standard of only allowing women to embrace highly professional job roles during the war prompted the rise and establishment of the Women’s Engineering Society by Lady Parsons.
WES not only campaigned to allow women to keep their jobs as engineers, but also became a driving force in encouraging and supporting women in this industry. Fast forward to the 21st century and we would expect engineering to be the epitome of gender diversity and equality in the UK after the endless struggles and campaigns of early female engineers. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and WES continues to support and encourage more girls and women into engineering.
Although women are not faced with the same legal pressures preventing them from becoming engineers, the shortage of female engineers suggests that alternative pressures, such as stereotyping and societal expectations, mean that engineering is still perceived as a male career. Britain may have been the birth ground of female engineering pioneers and activists, but current statistics shockingly reveal that the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe at just 7 percent.
Not only is engineering typically connected to a specific gender, but young people commonly associate engineering with construction sites and hard hats. Although construction-based engineering, aka civil engineering, is respectable in its own right, engineering as a whole should not be defined by this single discipline. Engineering is a vast profession that contains countless exciting and interesting opportunities that many young people, especially girls, are oblivious to. So what can be done to encourage more girls to consider engineering as a serious career?
Follow in the footsteps of early WES pioneers and get involved in raising the profile of women engineers this year. It’s simple but extremely rewarding to get involved in NWED and dispel the negative stereotypes associated with engineering. Not only will you be standing in solidarity with thousands across the country, but you will change British history by contributing to the increase in female engineers! To show your support for NWED, all you need to do is host an engineering-related event or activity and publicise it, using social media (using the #NWED hashtag) and mainstream media. The event could be a short careers workshop about the engineering profession or a talk inviting a local female engineer to speak to young people about rewarding opportunities within engineering. The main thing to remember is that you want the public to be aware that engineering is a diverse and exciting profession suitable for everyone!
Get involved in NWED 2015
Don’t forget to let us know what you plan to do for NWED 2015 by filling in our Event Notification Form.