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Policy statement

Gender in Engineering

In this policy statement we identify barriers to the participation of women in engineering, be it in the way the sciences are taught at school, college or university, or dominant practice in the engineering profession itself.

It is government policy to encourage working populations to reflect the prevailing diversity of the UK population; legislation exists for the equality strands of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion/belief and age. Despite this, minority groups and women are relatively poorly represented in the engineering profession.

It is generally agreed that the UK will need more engineers and technicians in the future. On the other hand, demographic trends mitigate against any increase in the number of young people available to pursue engineering careers. Current levels of female representation in engineering do not reflect the potential number available; women represent a pool of talent that could play a significant part in meeting the predicted future demand for engineers and technicians.

Key recommendations

The Department for Children, Schools and Families should:

  • Review science curricula (particularly physics) at GCSE and at A Level to ensure they better reflect the interests of both boys and girls
  • Promote the potential of the 14–19 Engineering Diploma to appeal as much to girls as to boys
  • Support new inclusive approaches to teaching; engineering employers involved in the Engineering Diploma should ensure they provide opportunities that appeal to both boys and girls

Schools should:

  • Ensure that teaching of science and engineering subjects includes positive references to the subjects in a human context as well as in the technological context

Engineering employers should:

  • Prioritise the release of female engineers to support engineering engagement and enrichment schemes so that both boys and girls see female engineers as positive role models
  • Actively pursue greater flexibility in employment practice, particularly in the provision of career breaks and associated systems to facilitate re-entry to work through, for example, re-entry training
  • Be seen to be (as well as actually being) attractive to and genuinely welcoming of all who have the aptitude and aspiration to achieve – this may demand further changes in attitude and working practice within engineering premises

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