WHY DON’T GIRLS CHOOSE ENGINEERING?

Danielle Workman
By Danielle Workman, an 18 year old sixth-form student at Ralph Allen School in Bath studying Maths, Physics and Chemistry.

Did you know that only 6% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female, and just 13% of all engineering degree applicants are girls. There are a lot of statistics that show that women are underrepresented in engineering, but not much about why this is the case. I am an 18 year old girl who wants to be an engineer, so I decided to find out more about this.
The University of Bath made a Vimeo about my findings: https://vimeo.com/131198139

In addition I created an online questionnaire to which over 300 students responded. Their responses showed overwhelmingly that girls are far less interested than boys in pursuing an engineering career. Despite being just as capable and often outperforming boys in maths and physics, the girls do not feel as confident in their ability and do not like the subjects as much as boys. These negative attitudes develop soon after arriving at secondary school and increase as they approach GCSE level. Yet younger girls at the end of primary school are just as enthusiastic about all the STEM subjects as the boys.

I also ran focus groups. These suggested that the girls were more susceptible to gender stereotyping than they perhaps realised. Subconscious gender bias is difficult to avoid and it does affect girls’ enjoyment of subjects like physics. It’s hard for young girls to speak up in a male dominated classroom and to develop confidence in their ability.

Another finding was that girls take longer than boys to decide which subjects they enjoy. The current school system in England only allows students to study a very limited number of A’ levels, which often results in girls dropping maths and physics even though they would be capable of doing well in these subjects.

So what can be done to improve the situation? One thing schools could do is monitor their A’ level subject entries by gender, and be aware of the positive impact teachers can have on encouraging girls to study physics. Also young girls should experience working with female role models already in STEM careers to inspire them to choose non-gender stereotypical professions.

I was surprised at the interest shown by the professionals I sent my report to, including our local MP Ben Howlett. He invited me to contribute to a debate on ‘Increasing diversity in STEM careers’ at the Houses of Parliament. It was good to see that the politicians’ opinions were similar to my own and there seems to be real support for improving the gender balance in this field.

Advertisements

Miriam González-Durántez guest editor of BBC Radio 4 Today programme

Attachment-1

International lawyer and Inspiring Women champion, Miriam González-Durántez, was among the festive guest editors of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this Christmas.

Miriam González-Durántez said before the show was broadcast: “I am a big fan of the Today programme. I am hoping to give it a practical twist to discuss some of the issues related to caring and gender stereotypes that affect not only women, but also men.”

This year will be the twelfth that the Radio 4 flagship programme has handed over to guest editors during the week between Christmas and New Year. Previous guest editors have included Professor Stephen Hawking, Sir Lenny Henry and Sebastian Coe.

Listen to the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme guest edited by Miriam: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06shzh5

Interviewees included; Home Secretary Theresa May, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain.

‘Inspiring Women’ campaign motivates students in Bangladesh

IMG_1114

The first “Inspiring Women” style event took in Bangladesh on 23rd December 2015. Modelled on the UK campaign, it brought together many successful women from the world of work to talk with over 200 female students from different schools.

The event was hosted by Scholastica, a school in Dhaka, and supported by British Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who is of Bangladeshi origin and went to Scholastica as a teenager. This ‘speed career networking’ event saw groups of 7-15 students meet in small groups with successful women, to freely ask questions and get honest answers. Every ten minutes, the speakers rotated so the students could hear from six or more different people during the day.

Bangladesh have had an elected female head of state longer than any other country in the world. But for the Bangladesh economy to keep growing, the country needs to make the most of its talented young women: overall, under 60% of women were employed in 2010 compared with almost 90% for men.

Media coverage of the event

Nearly all the coverage was in Bangla, but here a collection of English language articles:

Dhaka Tribune http://www.dhakatribune.com/feature/2015/dec/24/tomorrows-leaders
Financial Express http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2015/12/23/7181
The Daily Starhttp://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/have-faith-you-191701
Bangladesh News 24http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2015/12/23/stories-about-bangabandhu-inspire-tulip-to-join-politics

Wider international interest

The Education & Employers charity has received considerable international interest in our research, Inspiring the Future and the Inspiring Women campaign. We have responded to invitations to speak in Australia, Canada, the United States, Italy, Denmark, Cyprus, Belgium and Italy. Enquiries have come from over 35 countries as diverse as the Australia, Bangladesh, China, Spain, the UAE, United States and Zambia. We are currently considering how to respond to this interest, share our technology and practical experience of launching free programmes for schools in the UK.

Soft launch of ‘Inspiring Women in China’

A soft launch of Inspiring Women in China took place in October 2015 with the help of the British Council, with a more formal launch planned for Spring 2016.