Women can save engineering

07 April 2009

As concern grows regarding the unmet employer demand for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) employees, the Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) says women could be the answer. In the UK thousands of women with literacy and numeracy skills still shy away from STEM careers, according to the ETB.

As judged by GCSE pass rates in English, Maths and across the board, young women of school-leaving age are more literate, numerate and do better in science than their male counterparts, with 9 per cent more female candidates gaining five or more GCSE passes at grades A-C.

Young women and girls also appear to enjoy maths, science and technology subjects more than their male counterparts with 22 per cent more girls aged 7-11 ‘enjoying design and technology‘ than boys, and 22 per cent more boys than girls ‘not enjoying science and maths at all’, a trend which is mirrored to some extent at age 11-16.

Yet, despite this proven capability and interest in STEM subjects at school, a vast resource of literate, numerate, ‘work-ready’ young women is entirely lost to the STEM employers highlighted in the CBI survey, as demonstrated by the fact that:
 27 per cent of women with Science, Engineering and Technology degrees go into jobs within these fields, compared with 54 per cent of their male counterparts
 Over a quarter of careers advisors and teachers associate engineering with men.

This results in a vastly restricted talent pool in the science and engineering roles the CBI survey identifies.

The ETB believes that in order to meet employers’ requirements for increasingly numerate and literate employees at all levels of STEM careers, as well as addressing the ETB’s recent findings that employers are looking for more ‘work-ready’ employees, more young women should be encouraged to join the STEM workforce, bringing with them stronger skills in literacy, numeracy, science and general ‘work-readiness’.

ETB chief executive, Paul Jackson, said: ‘We know that broadly speaking, young women consistently demonstrate better numeracy, literacy and science skills than young men at age 16, and yet we also know that a quarter of careers advisors associate science and engineering careers with men. Therefore the most effective way to close the numeracy, literacy and other industrial skills gaps identified by Science and Engineering employers, is to improve careers advice, tackle gender stereotypes, and prevent so many skilled young women being lost to science and engineering’.

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