Headteacher’s blog: International Women in Engineering Day

The UK has the lowest proportion of female engineers in the EU, according to the Women’s Engineering Society and the percentage of girls taking A Level Physics has been stagnant for 20 years.

Urmston Grammar School continues to work hard to address this imbalance; we offer a challenging environment to stimulate curiosity, interest and enjoyment of science in all our students, girls and boys alike.

However, nationally there is huge drop-off in girls in science subjects between GCSE and A Level  and a worrying lack of girls taking A Level Physics, a core requirement for a career in engineering.

Women have made up only a quarter of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) university graduates for the last three years and only a fifth of the STEM workforce according to WISE, the campaign for gender balance in science.

Pressure group Sciencegrrl revealed that one in 10 people asked to name a famous female engineer or scientist chose Isambard Kingdom Brunel – a man.

International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June seeks to highlight careers in engineering and technical roles to girls and celebrate outstanding women engineers to inspire more students to follow in their footsteps.

Every day I see bright, motivated and capable young women ready to take the STEM world by storm. These girls don’t need to change, it is the world that needs to change – because without these would-be engineers it is missing out on half a world of potential. It not for just our girls to challenge the status quo, it must stem from all of us.

We see our work here at Urmston Grammar School as setting our students on the first steps to their future.

From our day field trips and residential field studies; to our science and engineering club; taking part in science fairs and competitions; attending lectures and from participating in joint projects with external organisation to holding the record for the country’s longest running Café Sci, the students’ forum to discuss topical scientific issues in a relaxed atmosphere – we give our pupils the opportunities to make their own future.

Girls are acknowledged as equals and colleagues in our labs and classrooms and their experiences here will set their expectation that they will be welcomed and free from conscious and subconscious bias in education, workplaces and society at large.

The ever-expanding sector of engineering offers an extraordinary world of possibilities – a world which needs brilliant young women, with all their practical, collaborative, problem-solving skills.

Impressively summed up by Naomi Climer, the first president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) 2015/6 in the Guardian in 2015: saying:

Engineering is the application of mathematics and scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge in order to invent, innovate, design, build, maintain, research, and improve structures, machines, tools, systems, components, materials, processes, solutions, and organisations.

She added: “What so many young people don’t realise is that engineering will give you work wherever you want: in the office or out of doors; on your own or as part of a team; working with computers or without them. You could work with food, chemicals, machines, electronics, bridges or railways or design software. It is an amazing range.”

 “The more mixed is the membership of any team – whether that is in terms of gender or age or class – the better it is at coming up with solutions to problems, and engineers are by definition problem-solvers. So again it makes it important to get as many women involved as possible.”

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