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Civil Engineer blog

Reflecting on women in engineering - A digital world

28 June 2017
As the digital transformation takes hold, we have an exciting opportunity to shape how it impacts the workplace for everyone.
Reflecting on women in engineering - A digital world

Having both been involved in the State of the Nation: Digital Transformation, it seemed fitting to look at this through a digital lens and in true #MenAsAllies style blog together

Few would disagree that there is a gender issue in our industry. Yet it is widely accepted that a diverse mix of employees creates a better environment for creativity and innovation to flourish . We should ensure that innovation provided by engineers, to tackle local issues and global challenges, is shaped by a range and diversity of thinkers, better reflecting the world we live in.

International Women in Engineering Day, celebrated, this year, on the 23 June, is a wonderful opportunity to promote engineering as a career for girls and women and celebrate their achievements while arguing that #9percentisnotenough (the estimated share of females currently working in our industry). It is also a time to take stock of where we are as an engineering industry and where we need to be going.

This was the first year when the 'I for International' in INWED had been exercised. In some cultures women are still excluded from studying engineering, so it’s clear that our friend ‘digital’ can cross borders and help us to get our message out. We also need to learn from other nations and use digital as a means to share best practice. The UK has one of the lowest percentages of female engineering professionals in Europe, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30% . Beyond Europe, in India over 30% of engineering undergraduates are women whilst in the UK the figure is less than 16% .

Since its start, INWED has harnessed the power of social media to share resources, hold events and broadcast stories. This year’s INWED ‘thunderclap’ surpassed last year’s Twitter reach to over 1.2m people and the #SaveAnEngineer web event allowed people to participate in a debate amongst inspiring female engineers. There is really no excuse for not celebrating women in engineering when it is now so easy and quick for everyone to play their part in being role models and breaking stereotypes, no matter your age, race, gender or background.

STEM Ambassadors have recently uploaded their Ambassador training course online, making it easier for STEM professionals to get involved despite busy lives or distances away from STEM Hubs . The world has truly changed; when most of us were at school it would have been impossible for teachers to use Skype or a web chat to explore careers. Digital communications open up a plethora of opportunities for us to support teachers in inspiring their students, particularly at a time when, for many schools resources for careers advice is lacking.

Data is our ally. We should make full use of digital tools to measure and monitor progress we make. The STEM Ambassadors programme is a ‘national treasure’, as their database of currently over 30,000 fully trained STEM Ambassadors presents a colossal opportunity to understand where interventions, like discussing STEM careers with young people and helping teachers develop resources, are - and aren’t- taking place. In doing so, we can help inform future targeted intervention.

Digital communications present a great opportunity to develop mentoring opportunities at all levels of the industry, including reverse mentoring. Charities like the Social Mobility Foundation are using email to connect young people from low income backgrounds with professionals and mentoring schemes, like ICE’s Mentor Match, are a great way of matching potential engineers with suitable mentors.

At the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution, digital presents a fantastic opportunity to significantly enhance the role of women in engineering, but it’s clear that we all have an active part to play in steering this transformation in the right direction.