International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is a day to celebrate achievements; a campaign that aims to shape the world for the next generation, and break the bias to make our world more diverse, equitable and inclusive.
INWED is an annual celebration which started in 2014 to champion women who work in the engineering field and Techwuman is proud of the contributions that have made a difference. This year, to commemorate the 9th anniversary of this campaign, INWED wants to focus on and celebrate the achievements of innovators and inventors who are helping to shape the world and imagine the future!
What does the future hold for female engineers?
Looking to the future, the world is transforming on a daily basis. New inventions are developed, and changemakers are improving the industry by breaking down stereotypes and addressing social issues.
By becoming role models and showcasing the female engineers involved in these inventions, there is greater awareness and a clearer path for women to pursue engineering and address the gender gap.
Why has it taken so long to transform our world for the good of everyone?
that it can take around 30 years to significantly change values, beliefs, and behaviour in the world.
Even though the terminology of ‘engineer’ and ‘engineering’ dates from the Middle Ages, the current meaning and usage was only acquired in the 19th century. In brief, an engineer applies the principles of engineering in order to design and build systems, devices, structures, materials or processes.
Engineering started being taught as a formal academic discipline in the late 18th century, when women were not permitted to study this degree. This in turn, turned engineering into an industry comprised of a male workforce. Initially, design engineers used technical paper drawings to design products, but as the years progressed, 2D Computer Aided Design (CAD) was introduced, allowing design engineers to electronically experiment and modify ideas reiteratively.
Engineering modelling has progressed significantly to get to where we are with advanced 3D modelling packages available today. Nowadays, 3D modelling is an engineer’s hidden secret, allowing not only conceptual design, but also initial design assessments on models and even structural analysis.
Why do we strive to fit jobs into stereotypes?
We are so used to stereotyping that many believe certain jobs are deemed only appropriate for certain people. But why is this the case? A stereotype is an overview of how people will and should behave based on scientific theory, which, although may be statistically correct, is not always right. Stereotypes enforced by society have typically portrayed girls to be nurturing and accepted that ‘boys will be boys’
Children’s career aspirations are influenced by many factors, including their familial role models and people they look up to as they grow up. Gender stereotyping starts from the age of 3 years old and tends to lead to gendered career aspirations.
Maths and Science were among the top five favourite . Yet, if you look at the time girls reach GCSE and A-level, the numbers of girls studying maths and science drops significantly; only 8% of STEM apprentices are women, with women representing only 3% of engineering apprentices and less than 1% of automotive industry apprentices. Without clear role female role models and wider societal support, there is very little encouragement for girls to move away from traditionally accepted roles.
What does a perfect design engineer look like? Decades ago, we created stereotypical ideologies of different careers to help decide what pathway a person should take. Once women were able to step away from the typical textiles, nursing and food technology routes, we realised that there was more choice than first perceived.
A perfect design engineer is creative, analytical and practical. They think about the bigger picture, sustainability and manufacturing. They’re good at researching, applying science and mathematical concepts and designing to meet specific requirements. Whilst progress has been made on the concept that engineering used to be a stereotypical male career, there is still a way to go. Throughout history, there have been countless numbers of inspirational women who have fought for women’s rights, equality and justice. These women are changemakers and have had, and continue to have, a huge impact on the world and the engineering industry.
Some of the changemakers from engineering history and for the future include:
- Annie Easley – A mathematician and computer scientist who began her career in 1955 at the Lewis Research Centre, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (now known as NASA). Her first role was as a ‘human computer’ but quickly moved to computer coding as new technologies were introduced. During her career she worked on projects including the Centaur rocket, power technologies, and energy problems. Easley was active in outreach for NASA, encouraging students to consider careers in STEM. Her work helped lay the foundations for later space-shuttle and satellite launches. In 2021 a crater on the moon was named after her.
- Dame Caroline Haslett – The first secretary of the Women’s Engineering Society in 1919, she co-founded the Electrical Association for Women in 1924. Haslett campaigned for women’s rights in the UK and internationally, and was President of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women.
- Gitanjali Rao – Inventor, innovator and TIME’s first-ever Kid of the Year. She has been fascinated about finding clean water solutions since the age of 11 and was recognised on Forbes 30 Under 30 for her development of the Tethys device, which is based on carbon nanotubes that send water-quality information via Bluetooth.
How can you help?
By taking part in campaigns such as INWED, you can help to make an impact in the engineering world and other industries, by showing solidarity and celebrating the amazing achievements of women. You can also help to showcase the huge array of opportunities available to females in engineering.
As of June 2021, only 16.5% of the engineers are female. This is a slight improvement from 14.5% in 2020(12.5% in 2018) and shows the impact of the awareness brought about by people talking about engineering and how exciting it is. Another major influence is by having diverse and visible female role models for the next generation to look up and aspire to.
The rise in the uptake of female engineers inspires us at Techwuman to continue our STEM promotion and strive to achieve our mission as a company, to achieve gender equality in the industry.
Techwuman, what we do
Techwuman is an engineering consultancy company based in the UK specialising in design engineering for the critical national infrastructure. Offering a variety of design services, the company utilises SOLIDWORKS® to produce and work collaboratively on high quality 3D designs and drawings. As well as offering a host of engineering services, the company’s mission is to empower women to take up a career in engineering to improve gender parity in the industry.
Techwuman promotes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) to the next generation by delivering STEM activity days to primary and secondary schools throughout the UK, inspiring the younger generation to take up careers in industries they may not have considered before. Since September 2019, they have delivered activity days to over 3,000 pupils, inspiring and exciting them about the world of engineering and other STEM careers. We also showcase the Techwuman STEM ambassadors (over 70% of them are female) as role models to the pupils.
The activity days provide pupils with the opportunity to think about their careers early on, and equip them with the knowledge to make the right subject choices to embark on their chosen career.
Techwuman also collaborates with companies that share the same CSR goals. The STEM Working Group at Dassault Systèmes is aligned to our values and works hard to promote STEM at all ages.
To the changemakers of the past, or the trailblazers of the future: we are celebrating what we have achieved so far and what can be achieved in the future. Today is the day to share what you have achieved, why you love engineering and why the future generation needs to get involved in engineering!
As a female chartered engineer, I am excited about what the future holds for women in engineering. I make it my mission to be a role model to the younger generation and to encourage, inspire and support more girls to take up careers in engineering.