Fixing the Future | Girls in Engineering Science

The change from the old Technological Studies to Engineering Science can no doubt be seen as a good thing – pupil numbers have gone up, achievement and attainment has gone up, and schools that dropped the old course years ago for one reason or another are now offering Engineering Science. From 2014 to 2015 an additional 40% of pupils took up Engineering Science.

The most important thing in my opinion though is the increase in girls taking the course. Traditionally the female cohort in technical departments and faculties was low, and this could be argued it is because of multiple reasons – with the main one probably being that it is seen as a ‘male subject’. Whether this is because of old school thinking and stereotyping (boys take Tech and girls take HE) or because the actual teachers are mostly male, this is something we have to work on and try and change from day 1.

Recent research by the IET revealed that a staggering 93% of parents would not support their daughter to pursue a career in engineering! However when the girls are asked what subjects they enjoy at school, 39% of said they mostly enjoyed STEM based subjects! Initiatives are out there to help change this, such as WISE and WES, but we as teachers can do so much more to close this gender gap.

Students studying

A recent RAENG survey showed that it is a lack of understanding, awareness and inspiration that prohibits girls to consider a career in engineering. This is large section of pupils are that we have traditionally shunned, yet they are more likely to do better in school and achieve more qualifications. If anything, from a selfish teacher’s level and ignoring the idea of steering the pupils to career path they will enjoy and thrive in, the more females that we attract into Engineering Science the more likely it is we will get better grades!

According to the same RAENG survey, a common factor for most women engineers was having had at least one inspirational teacher (91% stated this). She or he was likely to have been passionate about their subject, and ‘able to bring their subject to life’ while actively supportive of individual pupils. I’m lucky in my career where I have always had at least 1 female teacher in my department, and in some cases inspiring PTs, and this helps a great deal to show that Technical is female friendly.

A woman teaching in a classroom

Having a female teacher isn’t the be all and end all though. Male teachers can still help make our departments/faculties attractive for girls and convincing to parent that their daughters should be taking our subjects. Start by looking at your BGE course – is there anything there that would be attractive the female audience? This doesn’t need to just be from an Engineering Science Perspective – for example instead of the same old standard metalwork projects like a coat hook or trowel, could you possibly experiment with something more diverse and female focussed like a jewellery project? Could you contact a local engineering firm and ask them for a female engineering to come and speak to your classes to enthuse them about the subject and possible career paths? Could a STEM ambassador do something to help improving interest and career advice? Could you even work with primary schools to help inspire them before they even come up to our schools? This is something I have found primary teachers generally welcome with open arms as with the CFE outcomes they now HAVE to cover technology in a way they have never done before. If we can inspire the primary teachers this can only help for when they come up to us.

Child with building blocks

Are there courses or competitions out there that you could enter to help further inspire girls? GE Oil and Gas deliver GirlsGetSET – something that that they have successfully run in England and Wales, and have launched in Aberdeen more recently. Shell and North East Scotland College run a ‘Girls in Energy’ course designed to open young women’s eyes to the energy industry’s wealth of career opportunities. Is there anything in your local area that you could tap into and get involved in? If you don’t know of anything could your local authority/college/university/engineering firm help in any way? Help may only be an email away!

The new course of Engineering Science is showing to be a great success due to the commitment and work of us teachers. Now that we hopefully now know what the courses entail, we can have this opportunity to look at our clientele and focus on getting the ‘right’ pupils into the course. Closing the gender gap can only be a win-win situation!

About our National 5 Engineering Science Study Guide

Paul MacBeath is the author of our popular National 5 Engineering Science Study Guide, which is the only guide available for this challenging course. It is up-to-date with the latest SQA course changes and aims to supplement learning both in and outside the classroom. The course is broken up into three main units, and each chapter within this book covers the content you need to know and understand. The Study Guide also features lots of extra online material, tests and activities on the BrightRED Digital Zone.

You can find out more about this brilliant Study Guide here.

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