STEM Matters: International Women in Engineering Day | #TransformTheFuture…
02 June 2019
Sunday 23rd June will mark 2019’s INWED, the 6th annual version of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering & focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls & women in this vital & exciting industry.
This column was originally featured in the June 2019 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.
Despite a little movement in the right direction, the UK still languishes well behind the rest of Europe when it comes to the STEM gender gap, with women representing only around 12% of the engineering professionals workforce.
Given the wider STEM skills crisis and shortfall in engineering candidates to meet the demands of employers in the sector, improved diversity (gender and otherwise) remains essential to help address this – as well as to broaden the perspective of a currently very homogenous engineering workforce. This needs to be a year-round effort, but INWED provides a useful focal point in the calendar to bang the drum and generate as much buzz and attention for this important issue as possible.
National Women in Engineering Day was launched for the first time in the UK on 23rd June 2014 by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), to celebrate its 95th anniversary. In 2016, it received UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation) patronage, and in 2017, the event became international in scope as International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), in response to interest and enthusiasm from international participants in previous years.
2018 again saw record levels of engagement and reach, with almost 250 INWED events reaching around 150,000 people, plus a further 2.5 million reached via social media.
In 2019, WES’ own centenary year, its sixth INWED is aiming to inspire even greater participation, both online and through physical activities, by individuals, schools, colleges, groups and organisations across the globe. Its theme this year will be supported by the hashtags #INWED19 and #TransformTheFuture
Dawn Childs, President of WES, says of INWED19: “This is the centenary year of the Women’s Engineering Society and we will be celebrating the rich history of many inspirational ladies who have made their mark in the engineering world. However, there are still far too few women who even understand what engineering is let alone choose to become an engineer. International Women in Engineering Day is therefore so important to raise the profile and awareness of the fabulous opportunities that a career in engineering can bring.
“This year it is more pertinent than ever because our theme is #TransformTheFuture and so many forms of engineering do exactly that. So not only do we want to transform the future for girls and women by encouraging them to start a career in engineering or supporting them to excel and thrive in their current engineering career, but we will of course also be transforming the future of so much more with the engineering that they will do. So please participate in events or initiatives with us for INWED and help us to #TransformTheFuture!”
Another important element of the INWED celebrations is the annual ‘Top 50 Women in Engineering’ (#WE50) awards, founded by WES in 2016 and designed to highlight the huge discrepancy between the number of men and women currently in engineering professions. After the inaugural WE50 list in 2016, 2017 recognised WE50 under 35, and 2018 celebrated WE50 returners and transferrers to the profession.
The theme in 2019 is ‘Apprentices’, celebrating the WE50 who are either current or former apprentices. Nominations closed at the end of April, and the list will be announced on Friday 21st June in a supplement published by the Guardian newspaper, ahead of WE50 winners attending a WES Afternoon Tea on Monday 24th June to receive their awards at the Royal Academy of Engineering.
While women make up around 12% of engineers in the UK, only around 7% of engineering apprentices are female. By selecting current and former apprentices as its theme for 2019’s WE50, WES hopes to highlight the terrific opportunities that engineering apprenticeships offer women. Engineering Apprenticeships offer an alternative route to a career in engineering, and female engineering apprentices have the same access to career progression as those who have followed the degree route.
I encourage all our readers, men and women alike, to get involved with INWED – and do everything they can to encourage and support more girls and young women to pursue STEM studies and careers. #TransformTheFuture #INWED19
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