Masters of your own destiny (Day 34)

Your Life campaignHave you ever considered how engineering is perceived in different countries, and whether they face similar challenges on issues like recruitment, skills shortages and diversity?

Recently, I took a very quick ‘online peak’ around the world to look at some of these issues, especially the role of women in engineering.

In the UK, there is a general shortage of skilled engineers. Women account for just one in ten of registered professionals, although this is higher for chemical engineering, where more than one in four undergraduates currently studying are women.

But there are similar problems elsewhere. If you look at a perceived engineering powerhouse like Germany, women make up just 13 per cent of their engineers, up from around 10 per cent a decade ago, according to the Association of German Engineers (VDI). The Association also estimates that of the 384,000 students currently studying engineering in Germany, 79,000 are female.

In the US, according to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, female engineers represent only about 14 per cent of the total engineering workforce. They also indicated the proportion of female engineers appears to be dropping further.

By contrast, several Asian nations have a better record of producing female engineers. In China, 40 per cent of engineers are female. In India, the number of female engineering graduates has doubled in recent years.

Countries like Bahrain, Brunei, Lebanon, Qatar, Turkey, and Morocco all have better records for the percentage of women graduating with STEM degrees, compared to the US.

Back in the UK, it was encouraging to see the launch of a new campaign – called Your Life – a few weeks ago to help break down some of the stereotypes and barriers in the science and engineering professions.

The Your Life campaign brings together business, educators and civil society, to show how maths and science leads to exciting, successful careers. Its objectives include growing the number of women making science, technology and engineering career and subject choices.

Later in the year, the campaign will target young people, aged 14-16, treating them as ‘masters of their own destiny’. It will focus on the future and lead with messages that major on aspiration and enjoyment. The aim is to redefine how young people understand science and engineering careers.

In some ways the mixed success of nations in the field of engineering is confusing, especially as the profession has so many clear benefits.

In the UK, in monetary terms alone, science and engineering degrees can lead to very high earnings – those working in science or technological careers are paid, on average, 19 per cent more than other jobs.

IChemE is a signatory to the Your Life campaign and we hope you will support it too. Just visit their website to pledge your support.

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What are the most successful campaigns you have been involved in to improve recruitment, skills shortages and diversity? Please contact us and let us know.