The Women's Engineering Society organised a conference on National Women in Engineering Day to explore the issue, entitled "Engineering Women: Are they returning to work?" The statistics and stories from the women present illustrated the extent of the waste of talent and imagination when fully trained women leave the professions.
The UK faces a deficit of 340,000 engineers by 2020. Only 6% of Britain's engineers are female. China produces 20-times more engineers than the UK every year, and one in three of them are women. At school and university women outperform men in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Indeed, the few who do become engineers enjoy it - 98% of women engineers find their job rewarding. Who wouldn't? It is therefore incomprehensible that 93% of parents would not support their daughters in pursuing a career in engineering.
I can only hope that small changes in perception, attitude and most of all confidence like these, repeated over and over again in homes across the world, will result in more girls feeling more confident about science, and families feeling more positive (and less scared!) of tackling a science activity themselves.
When asked, only seven per cent of parents said that they would encourage their girls to be engineers - despite the fact that girls show an active interest in STEM subjects from an early age. Could it be that parents are limiting their children's future career choices through outdated perceptions of the jobs they think girls and boys are interested in?
The skills gap in UK science and engineering industries is now an accepted fact of life with companies reporting difficulties in current recruitment of skilled staff. However, an initiative called Industrial Cadets, supported by government and led by major manufacturers, offers the opportunity of engaging future recruits while still at school, thereby developing the future talent pipeline.