Yesterday was Ada Lovelace day. This celebrates the achievements of women in STEM careers and was created in memory of one in particular; Ada Lovelace, the first female computer programmer.
It is no secret that, at present, women play a peripheral role within science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) industries, and this shouldn’t be the case.
In engineering for example, women make up just 11% of the occupation’s entire UK workforce, and this has seen glacial improvement in previous years.
Yet, gender diversity is crucial and improves the workforce in many aspects. This, heard in The Manufacturer’s Women & Diversity in Manufacturing Summit earlier this year.
“We believe the future of manufacturing is female, and digital,” CEO of Protolabs, a multi-million pound digital manufacturer and the world’s fastest source for custom prototypes, Vicki Holt said.
“To speed up productivity and production lines, technology is increasingly being incorporated within the manufacturing process. Therefore, to future-proof the industry, software development and design skills should be actively encouraged at a young age for girls and boys.”
She concluded: “Ada Lovelace day serves a very timely reminder of how incredible women can be in computing and software development.”
Female apprentice at IMI Precision, Maria Collins, spoke to The Manufacturer previously, about being the only female on her three-year programme, she said: “At the beginning it was hard to adjust. I had to work extra hard because I was a girl, to prove myself.”
She added: “It disappoints me massively that that is even an issue, it shouldn’t be but for some reason it is, we have to keep fighting for equality.”
Women need to be encouraged and supported in STEM
Including a more diverse workforce in STEM, manufacturing and engineering careers remains vital to the progress of not just these, but all industries.
Research released earlier this year by Engineering UK also reported that only 60% of girls aged 11 to 14 think they could become an engineer if they wanted to, and this figure sharply drops to a quarter when girls reach 16.
There are many ways to include a more gender-balanced workforce, from encouraging younger women into industries to supporting women already in or returning to their career in STEM.
Numerous studies suggest that participating in hands-on activities and speaking to engineers has a positive impact on young people’s – particularly girls – knowledge of engineering jobs.
CEO of Women’s Engineering Society (WES), Kirsten Bodley spoke to The Manufacturer about the topic.
The former chief executive of STEMNET, whose background is originally in chemical engineering, explained that it is crucial to realise the potential women have in the engineering sector, offering up different skills to their male counterparts.
She said: “There are so many opportunities for women in engineering, exciting careers and they are just not being utilised. There is a massive need for skills and we need to encourage women into the sector.”