The UK’s engineering sector skills shortage is well documented and the number of women in the industry is still disproportionately low. Despite initiatives to get girls interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) subjects, the percentage of female A level physics students hasn’t changed in 25 years – it’s still just 20%. However, forward thinking engineering companies and inspirational women within the sector can help change this and enthuse children from a young age to consider an exciting career in engineering.
To support International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), which takes place worldwide on 23rd June, Star Refrigeration organised an event at St Thomas Primary School in Glasgow. Female engineers from Star delivered presentations to celebrate women in the industry and encourage girls between the ages of 9-11 to consider a career in engineering.
Most youngsters are unaware of the crucial role refrigeration plays in our everyday lives. Food and beverages production, the data centres necessary for social media and the internet, medicines production to cure illnesses and leisure activities including ice skating and curling all require some form of mechanical cooling! Star Refrigeration believes that it is crucial to increase understanding of the engineering industry and ensure young girls recognise the variety of roles that they could embark on as a career.
Claire Syme, one of the female engineers involved in the project commented, “Three women engineers from Star shared our stories about how we entered the industry from different paths and what our roles involve on a daily basis. The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in the whole of Europe at just 9%. The British engineering industry can help prioritise this issue by celebrating events such as INWED. We are hoping to change perceptions amongst children, especially girls, by showing them how diverse and creative engineering roles can be.”
Over 50 children at the school learnt what a career in engineering entails, and a number of them will hopefully be inspired to pursue science and maths subjects further. Brendan Docherty, Headmaster of St Thomas Primary School said, “I am keen to be involved in initiatives that support the development of our children as we are aiming to drive forward STEM across the school”.
Supporting Diversity in Engineering
Star Refrigeration has long had an active role in encouraging women to consider a career in engineering. It has supported a variety of causes to encourage future female engineers into the Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pump (RACHP) industry in addition to educating youngsters about the endless possibilities within the sector.
As an industry we are missing out the skills of talented people to drive innovation and creativity forward within our companies.
But there still are societal and cultural barriers to women entering the industry. Some of these are so subtle that we are not aware of them. In Spanish, German, French and Italian, the word engineering comes from “ingenious” as in clever, inventive, and talented. However, in English, engineering derives from engine, which means motor/machine. And this might not sound as attractive.
Other barriers include misperceptions about the degree of ability required to achieve engineering degrees as well as beliefs that engineering is too difficult which could be linked to a lack of knowledge about what a career in engineering entails.
Many industries which were dominated by men are now more diverse, with more women taking on careers in law, medicine and business – however the numbers of women in engineering have stagnated.
Gender diversity is a moral and social issue, but there’s a business case for it too. Research from McKinsey has found that companies who champion gender diversity have a competitive advantage, and perform 15% better than companies without a diverse workforce.
Engineer Sarah Patrick was recently profiled in ACR Journal in a Women in Engineering feature, and the company actively tries to inspire young women at university events as well as attracting them to Star’s apprenticeship scheme. For the last two years Star has supported FemEng, a group of female engineers from Glasgow University, with an international project in Rwanda.
Female representatives from Star’s will also be attending and sponsoring an upcoming women in engineering event on 23rd June organised by the Institute of Refrigeration (IOR) and Women in RACHP group. The session will be held at Cool Concerns, a refrigeration training centre which is headed by Jane Gartshore, the MD of Cool Concerns who was last year been named as one of The Telegraph’s ‘Top 50 Women in Engineering.
From speaking at local primary schools to championing female employees within the company, Star Refrigeration is pushing for change. The workforce needs more woman and engineering businesses need to invest in inspiring the next generation of problem solvers. Find out more about International Women in Engineering Day and how you can get involved here: http://www.inwed.org.uk/