“Girlifying” Engineering: A Failed Tactic?

Engineering has long been a male-dominated industry; according to the Women's Engineering Society, only 6% of the UK's current engineering workforce is female.

As we mentioned recently, attempts have been made to encourage youngsters, especially girls, into the industry to combat the forecasted skills shortage. However, are these efforts working?

Olivia Jones, chartered engineer and project manager for Talent, Enterprise and Development at the NCUB (National Centre for Universities and Businesses) doesn't think so. Writing on the NCUB blog, she points out that the proportion of women on physics A-level courses has barely changed in over a decade, and that only 14% of undergraduate engineering and technology students are women. She states that there is something about the way engineering is portrayed that pushes women away.

By copying marketing tactics which are successfully targeted at women in other areas, it has been hoped that engineering could be “girlified” and made to appeal more to women; this has resulted in a lot of emphasis on the colour pink and on “girly” topics such as the science of lipstick.

To many women and young girls, this kind of approach is seen as patronising. Jones speaks of this approach as dressing engineering in pastels and pretending that it doesn't involve maths, or treating the subject like a hated vegetable to be snuck in under a thick coating of sickly sauce, and argues that it is ineffective.

The problem is not that engineering is innately undesirable to women; more that stereotypes around science and engineering create a dislike for such subjects.

A more successful approach might emphasise the creative, problem-solving and environmental aspects of engineering. Many girls and young women are already interacting with engineering issues but the image problem of the subject means that they don't identify it as a subject they're interested in.

Celebrating the achievements of women in engineering and providing positive role models can also help. The celebration of Ada Lovelace Day earlier this week is a prime example, but schools and colleges can also work closely with women who are working in engineering right now to give their students an insight into this rewarding career.

Here at European Springs, we know how rewarding a career in engineering can be – our team see first-hand how even humble compression springs can change the world! For more information on our services and products, you can contact us on +44 (0) 208 663 1800.

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