A Rethink is Necessary to Inspire Women About Studying Engineering at University

“We don’t have a car or a bit of a train hanging from the ceiling in our department,” says Dr Claire Lucas, director of studies for systems and biomedical engineering at the University of Warwick. “We’re making face masks at the minute, and we’ve got other humanitarian engineering, such as a shaking bridge that helps us with earthquake modelling. It helps visiting prospective students rethink what engineering really is.”

That rethink is necessary if the broad subject area of engineering is to appeal to more women. Although 35% of those studying Stem subjects at university are female, the proportion falls to 19% in engineering and technology.

For Rachael Rothmann, a senior lecturer in the department of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Sheffield, it’s important that open days reflect not just the university’s academic kudos, but the atmosphere of the department as a whole. “A few years ago, we got some psychology students to act as ‘secret shoppers’ on our open days. We found that girls tended to hang around at the back of a group, so they didn’t get the same interaction with people running the tour. Now, we always have people talking and answering questions at the back as well.”

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