Lack of Role Models Identified as Key Factor Keeping Women out of STEM

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A round-table discussion has identified that one key factor preventing women from reaching the top of their fields in STEM careers, following a Women’s Engineering Society campaign.

Ahead of the International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) on the 23rd of June, a board of experts in Engineering and Enterprise met at the University of Southampton to discuss women’s role within the occupation. INWED was created as an awareness campaign by the Women’s Engineering Society, a charity and professional network supporting female Engineers and Scientists.  The panel, led by Future Worlds and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), discussed the experiences of women working in engineering and startups in the hopes of bettering their experience in the future.

Women are a minority when it comes to engineering, being seven times likely than men to have a career in the field. Women are also known to be five times less likely to build a business with a £1m+ turnover, according to the round table. Speaking on the lack of diversity within engineering, Virginia Hodge, Vice-President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, stated:

IET’s aim is to inspire, inform, and influence engineers, the public and the government about how exciting engineering is, and I’m very keen that we increase the diversity of engineers, which means we need to encourage more women and also more of the LGBT+ community and those from more diverse ethnic backgrounds to pursue engineering.

Gathered at the round table, the panel identified a lack of female representation to be a key issue hindering women from seeking a career in engineering. The experts argued that by the time girls get to University, they have already encountered a multitude of messages about the ways in which gender affect potential. Current University of Southampton student and founder of ZWICH, Emily Smith, believes that if young girls don’t see female representation in the field, they won’t see it as a viable option.

In order to combat the lack of women in STEM, it was argued that introducing more visible role models could ‘help undo self-perpetuating false narratives that the fields of engineering and entrepreneurialism are not for women‘. Therefore, University alumni networks were considered to be a source with much potential. Ben Clark, Director of Future Worlds adds that ‘There’s huge power in connecting people with role models who allow them to see that their ambitions can be realised, no matter who they are‘.

Hear more from the panel here.

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Opinion Editor 19/20, Features Editor 18/19. Third year BA English Lit student with a passion for intersectional feminism, dogs and iced coffee, currently on a YA in Hong Kong.

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