Online imagery discourages budding female engineers

As new research reveals that online imagery of engineers woefully underrepresents females and is putting girls off from pursuing the subject as a career, a surprising source of encouragement for more female engineers has come from the Palace no less!

New research has shown that the damaging stereotype of engineering being a male dominated industry is being reinforced in online imagery and promotional material. EngineeringUK’s study reveals that a mere quarter of stock images from Shutterstock and Getty – and 26 per cent of search engine images for the term ”engineer” – depict women.

Cyber sexism

Meanwhile, popular news and career websites, like BBC News Online and Total Jobs, and university promotional materials fare slightly better with 42 per cent and 53 per cent of images featuring women. Though, with men still featuring in more than 80 per cent of images across all image platforms, the virtual gender divide is still hugely apparent.

When the researchers surveyed 500 secondary school aged girls who were shown promotional engineering materials nearly a third (29 per cent) could not relate to the imagery. A similar number (28 per cent) believed that the images were “too male orientated” and seven per cent said that the materials would put them off from taking up a career in engineering.

Paul Jackson, CEO of EngineeringUK, said: “If a picture is worth a thousand words, it is extremely worrying that cyber sexism is rife when it comes to the depiction of engineers on websites used by young people.

In the next decade employers will need 1.82m people with engineering skills, meaning we need to double the number of apprentices and graduates entering the industry. We cannot afford to lose would-be engineers by carelessly reinforcing stereotypes and not showing the full scope of exciting careers available

“We need to inspire, not discourage, young people to consider engineering as their future career,” he added.

More female engineers at Her Majesty’s request

Budding young female engineers have clearly been lacking a strong female role model for encouragement. Until now that is, with the news that the Queen has given her support to the cause by inviting a host of women engineers to a reception at Buckingham Palace.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said that the Queen “can see the vital importance of engineering to our future and is proactively encouraging young people to consider it as a choice.

“In part, this is born of personal experience. As a young woman serving with the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the Queen learnt vehicle maintenance skills that have stayed with her to this day. She got her hands dirty, enjoyed it, and would encourage young people today to have the same experience.

“At a time when there is a big industry push for more girls to become involved in engineering, the Queen would wholeheartedly support that initiative,” the spokesperson added.

If it’s good enough for the queen…

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