Let me be real: maths was never my strong point. I was that kid at school whose eyes would glaze over when it came to ‘the science part’.
I’ve always been naturally drawn to literature and the arts, but I do wonder sometimes if things might have been different if I’d had more female role models in maths and sciences growing up.
Last week saw the launch of National Women in Engineering Day, organised by the Women’s Engineering Society, to highlight the achievements of female engineers and the many challenges that still lie ahead.
British Gas held a roundtable featuring notable women in the field: Dr Arti Agrawal, a lecturer at City University who specialises in optical fibres; Dawn Bonfield, president of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and materials engineer; Nadia Abbas, British Gas engineer and success coach; and Claire Miles, managing director of British Gas Homecare.
The main topic: with only 6 percent of positions in Engineering being currently held by women, how do we inspire young girls and future generations to smash through the barriers and perhaps become the next Ada Lovelace (English mathematician who co-invented the first computer)?
It starts with education and awareness, and sometimes even a negative incident can throw a helpful spotlight on an ongoing problem, sparking change. Recently Nobel prize winning scientist Tim Hunt’s speech, cracking sexist ‘jokes’ about women in the lab, led to a firestorm of protests on social media and his subsequent resignation.
We could argue about whether the punishment fit the crime, but one thing is certain: his throwaway comments speak to a wider culture of male domination and chauvinism in the science and technology industries.
The positive outcome is that we’ve had more discussion in the media, greater awareness of how women are treated in these professions, and hopefully a renewed incentive to create increased opportunities for female engineers and scientists.
Another thing that could draw more girls in is to shake off the stereotype of hard hats and builders’ bums to create a more inclusive picture of the type of people working in engineering.
Did you know that Hollywood screen icon Hedy Lamarr was also an electrical engineer who co-invented a technology that’s essential to our digital communication today?
She’s just one of thousands of babes and boffins of all descriptions throughout history who have helped to remake our world in numerous cool, creative (yes, engineering IS a creative industry), and life-changing ways.
Inspiring Your Little Engineers
Whether you have girls or boys, there are some wonderful places in London to get kids excited about science, engineering and its possibilities for building a better future. Here are some top spots to explore:
Describing themselves as a ‘children’s innovation and inspiration Lab’, they run weekend workshops and holiday camps for kids, a well as super cool sounding LEGO birthday parties!
A fantastic showcase of design and technological creativity in all forms, they offer family ‘Create and Make’ sessions and don’t miss the annual Design of the Year exhibition.
London Transport Museum
My babes love this collection of transport memorabilia and interactive exhibits, and they’ve just opened a play space for younger ones. Weekend and holiday activities for families too.
One of the best museums in London for families, always crammed with thought-provoking and hands-on displays for all ages. A brilliant day out for little explorers.
Visit wes.org.uk to learn more about the Women’s Engineering Society