Women In Engineering Day: Forging a Pathway for Girls in STEM

Originally published on The Huffington Post

‘Creative’, ‘inspiring’, ‘exciting’ and ‘fantastic’ - just some of responses from Year 7 girls when they were asked to sum up what engineering means to them. So with such passion for STEM subjects at an early age, why do women still make up just 14% of the UK’s STEM workforce and just 8% of the engineering workforce? And what more can be done to encourage girls to consider STEM careers?

Having originally trained as a structural engineer before moving into teaching, I know there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to new and as yet unimagined careers in STEM.

These new roles will come with opportunities and challenges. They will call for resilience and creativity to solve problems currently beyond our comprehension, a strong ability to communicate new concepts, the flexibility to adapt to new innovations and a sophisticated understanding of scientific theory.

To meet our global challenges for the future, it is vital that women are able to play an equal role in all sectors of the world economy.

Teaching STEM subjects at an early age is crucial. At Cheltenham Ladies’ College we have recently launched an Engineering, Enterprise and Technology (EET) Department, so that girls as young as 11 can develop and channel their creativity and ingenuity, not only through subjects such as art, music or drama, but also through engineering.

It is the regular hands-on experience of designing and tinkering with the mechanics of a project that ultimately fires the girls’ passion and enthusiasm at this early age. From designing robots and testing prototype bridges to destruction, to launching rockets over the school building, I see girls every day who are truly inspired by the real world applications of their projects.

As they learn about business awareness, design and problem-solving, these practical projects will fuel their imaginations and help them to develop the skills, confidence and desire to pursue a career in STEM, often against the odds.

Alongside the long-awaited EU Referendum, Thursday 23rd June also marks National Women in Engineering Day in the UK and it is a joy to celebrate the significant progress made by girls and women in STEM, with 104,000 more women in STEM in 2015 compared to the previous year.

From building oil rigs to working on biomechanical implant materials, engineering is a varied, innovative and inspirational global profession that is always evolving. Encouraging girls to actively consider a STEM career is crucial if our prospective designers, engineers, technologists and innovators are to have access to the full range of skills and talents needed to take on the challenges and opportunities of future generations.

Eve Jardine-Young, 
Summer 2016