Can Engineering Change Fast Enough?

Within PIF we have engaged with a number of female engineers on their thoughts on students entering the field of engineering. Below is the latest guest blog from Mary Gillie an experienced engineer within the energy and electricity industry.

Women engineers

On this forum and others there are discussions about the lack of women in engineering. Not only are women a small percentage of undergraduates, there is a high dropout rate after graduation.

This is not the case in all countries so there must be are large cultural element. I can’t prove this but my hunch is that there is an unconscious filtering of women away from engineering. If a teenage girl says she is likes science and working with people, I expect she will be steered towards medicine even though this mix of skills are just as essential for engineering. I studied physics and when I said this to people as an undergraduate, I was asked

‘Do you want to teach?’

An unscientific poll of my male peers indicated that they did not get the same response.

young girl engineer

What is engineering

I think this may be a symptom of a malaise in engineering in general. To me engineering is the use of science and technology for the benefit of society and the environment. To do this engineering has to engage with how humans react to technology and how to create closed systems that do not deplete our natural resources. To do this we need a cross section of society within engineering. We need men and women, different cultures and those with disabilities.

In my on field of electricity energy, we have to understand how people use energy and how we can get humans to reduce use and match use to renewable generation. This will depend on understanding interaction with technology (e.g. home energy management systems) but also people’s lives and habits. We need experience of bringing up kids, looking after the elderly, commuting etc. etc.

How can we change this

The need to adopt this holistic approach is pressing, not just to safeguard a world that is possible for humans to inhabit but also to retain and recruit enough engineers to put the solutions into practice. Can we change fast enough?

A good, elegant engineering solution is a simple as possible, meets peoples’ needs whilst minimising its impact or improving the environment. To me this is a much more attractive advert for engineering but I don’t often hear this articulated.

You have heard Mary's thoughts, we would like to hear yours?

Other articles on this subject:

Female Engineers: Bridging the gender divide

Why Gender in Engineering Does Matter

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