Women engineers support international diversity drive

The University of Portsmouth and Mary Rose Trust have supported International Women in Engineering Day (June 23) by holding an event for female engineers to discuss the future of the profession.

Yesterday’s networking evening at the Mary Rose Museum focused on increasing diversity and encouraging and supporting the next generation of engineers. Industry professionals, educators, alumni and students joined the discussion.

Ashleigh Young joins the discussion with Dr Eleanor Schofield, of the Mary Rose Trust, and Professor Mary Ryan, of Imperial College London. Pic by Helen Yates

While women comprise 47 per cent of the overall UK workforce, they make up only 12 per cent of those working in engineering occupations. The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe at less than 10 per cent, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30 per cent.

Former University of Portsmouth engineering student Ashleigh Young joined a panel discussion chaired by Dr Eleanor Schofield, Head of Conservation and Collection Care of the Mary Rose Trust.

Ashleigh graduated in July 2017 and has started her career as an engineer for 2H Offshore. She said: “Engineering was never a discipline that I considered, because I simply did not understand what it was. There was a lack of guidance and support at my school when it came to choosing the next step after A levels.

“Fortunately, I met a female engineer while at a university open day, which lead me into choosing an engineering degree. Luckily I had chosen science and technology subjects for my A levels. I spent five years studying my MEng Mechanical Engineering degree at Portsmouth and I am extremely grateful to all the inspirational female engineers (lecturers and fellow students) who supported me through my degree.

“I believe there are plenty of opportunities for women to excel in engineering disciplines. However the lack of awareness has a huge impact on the growth of women choosing an engineering subject. It is important to encourage equality in the workplace and it was comforting to meet so many women yesterday evening who are dedicated in making this change happen.”

The panel talk about diversity in engineering. Pic by Helen Yates

The event marked the run-up to International Women in Engineering Day, organised by the Women’s Engineering Society. The campaign aims to increase the profile of women in engineering worldwide and focus attention on the career opportunities available to girls in engineering and related industries.

 

The importance of raising awareness is highlighted by the annual Engineering UK report which anticipates an annual shortfall of between 37,000 and 59,000 engineering graduates and technicians to fill core roles.

Dr Lynsey Plockyn, Head of Engineering at the University of Portsmouth, attended the event. She said: “This is a critical issue for engineering, we need to create many more opportunities to engage a whole generation of young women in the great potential that engineering can offer, both for them and the world.”

Also joining the panel were Professor Leila Choukroune, of the University of Portsmouth; Professor Mary Ryan, of Imperial College London; Jovana Tuffnell, of charity The Girls’ Network; Mary Fake, Head of Physics at Portsmouth Grammar School; and Cath Longhurst CEO of the Education Business Partnership.

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