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Women making the difference

Do you know what day it is today? No, you don’t get any prizes for telling me it is Tuesday. No, today, 23rd June is referred to in the UK as National Women in Engineering Day (WED). The day is designed to focus people on recognising, supporting, encouraging and promoting women as engineers.

The engineering industry, like others, has identified real challenges in recruiting and maintaining women within their sector. Science is another, agriculture a third – the list is not news.

What is news, is the fact that we can now begin to piece together the reasons for this disparity in gender success and gender appeal. Through studying and understanding the differences between men and women’s brains, we are learning a tremendous amount about the ways they naturally prefer to work.

There are no physiological reasons why women cannot make extremely good engineers, or scientists, or astronauts/mathematicians/farmers etc. In fact, during the second world war, these activities were predominantly undertaken by women as most of the men had gone to fight.

So, if we know we CAN do it, the question becomes a case of why aren’t we doing it?

No one single intervention is going to suddenly open the flood gates and get women rushing in their masses to sign up. Instead, it needs a variety of approaches, each of which recognise and apply the differences the female brain prefers. And no, that does not mean it just needs to be made pink…

Let us look at one major way it could be altered.

By changing the emphasis, future female engineers could be shown the opportunities which are available to them, the choices they would have as their own careers unfold and, crucially, the differences they can make to people’s lives. The female brain cares. It is hardwired to. It is the reason many women become teachers, nurses, counsellors and carers. The reason women are proportionally more generous in their charitable giving, both in terms of time and money. The reason fewer of them are present in the boardroom. And the reason those who are, make for stronger, better companies.

This insight would help us all to be able to promote the engineering sector better, as we talk less about the money and the size of the company, and more – much more – about the reach women can have in affecting people’s lives for the better.

What a difference that would make…