The Women’s Engineering Society is celebrating its ninth International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June. The society aims to raise the profile of women working in engineering, support professional development, advocate for gender diversity in engineering and encourage more girls to consider a career in engineering.
The Women’s Engineering Society was founded in 1919 after the First World War ended and the Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act forced many women out of their jobs in manufacturing and back into the home, or jobs in domestic service. Seven women who found themselves in such a situation then established the Women’s Engineering Society. Their aim was to resist the pressure to leave the workforce so that men returning from the war could go back to their jobs, as well as to promote engineering as a career for women.
Engineering: a man’s world
According to the Women’s Engineering Society, just 16.5% of engineers are women, an increase of 6% compared to figures from 2010. In contrast, research presented by the House of Commons library suggested that 70% of jobs in education and 78% of jobs in health and social care are held by women. The same data shows some other common areas of employment for women include retail, administration and support services and professional, scientific and technical occupations such as doctor, lawyer, accountant, nurse etc.
Women account for just 15% of construction workers, 17% of those employed in mining and quarrying and 23% of transport workers. Engineering UK found that only 46% of girls aged 11 to 14 would consider a career in engineering, a number which drops to just 25% of 16 to 18-year-old girls. It’s for this reason that the Women’s Engineering Society places so much emphasis on encouraging more girls to consider opportunities in engineering, and supporting employers in encouraging gender diversity and equality in the workplace.
International Women in Engineering Day 2022
This year’s theme is inventors and innovators. The charity is:
The Women’s Engineering Society is looking towards the future this year, focusing on those who will change the industry for the better.
Northern Gas Networks celebrates women in engineering
Northern Gas Networks has seized the opportunity to encourage more women into the profession. Stella Matthews from Barnsley is their hydrogen development manager, working with supply chain businesses, industry stakeholders and government leads on innovation projects focused on exploring the role of the zero-carbon gas for heating domestic homes. She said:
“My advice to girls wanting to get involved in engineering is ‘go for it’ and say yes to every opportunity. It’s such an exciting time to be involved in our industry, shaping the future of energy.”
Freya Osment (pictured above) was one of three women who joined the gas distribution network in 2021 as an electrical and instrumentation apprentice, working across Yorkshire. She told us she always wanted to do something involving engineering. “My dad was a mine engineer, and then moved into precision engineering and lathe work. Growing up I was kind of a tomboy, and I liked helping him out, helping fix things.”
Osment studied general engineering at college and was the only girl in the class, but this didn’t faze her. Her days are now pretty busy, working as an electrical and instrumentation apprentice while studying for additional qualifications.
“My advice to any girl considering engineering would be to go for it, don’t worry about what people think and be yourself. If you like being out and about, days that are very different from each other and logical ways of working then it’s a great job to be doing.”