Opinion

A change in culture will attract women engineers

By Elena Rodriguez-Falcon

- Last updated on GMT

A change in culture could attract more women into engineering careers
A change in culture could attract more women into engineering careers
Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, acting chief executive and provost at NMiTE, talks about how a change in the culture of the UK manufacturing sector, including food and drink, could attract more women into the industry.

The UK has a huge shortfall of talented engineers and the sector’s failure in attracting more women has compounded the problem. In 2017, just 11% of the UK’s engineering workforce were women.

And, considering that a measly 15.1% of engineering undergraduates are female, that shocking figure is unlikely to change soon without some drastic steps.

The UK has particular cultural misconceptions about what it means to be an engineer, because the term is widely used by mechanics and other technicians. In other countries, being an engineer is a recognised skilled profession held in high esteem.

Making a real social impact

It is widely understood to be a promising career and is attractive to people who have a passion about making a real social impact on their environment by solving global problems.

Changing the cultural misconceptions about engineering is a long-term plan. If we are to make a change quickly, we need to remove the immediate blockage to higher education – the entry requirements.

Too often, young women come to apply to university only to find that they don’t have the prerequisite maths and physics A-level. At NMiTE [New Model in Technology & Engineering] – the new specialist engineering university in Hereford – we are helping to slay that sacred cow by taking away specific entry requirements.

Broader range of undergraduates

We hope that will encourage a broader range of undergraduates to the course. While it puts us out of line with the UK, it makes us very much in line with the rest of the world.

Only by tackling cultural misnomers head-on and changing the way engineers qualify in the UK can we reduce the challenges facing women in engineering. The time has come for change and NMiTE hopes to be playing a leading role by showing that different approaches can bring better results.

NMiTE (New Model in Technology and Engineering) is an up and coming centre of training and learning for engineering education. Set to open its doors in September 2020, it will be the first new university in the UK in 40 years.

Related topics: People, Skills Gap

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