Judith Hackitt, IChemE deputy president and chair of the Great
Britain Health and Safety Executive, is calling for greater
focus on encouraging women to pursue careers in
Speaking on Friday's International Womens Day,
Hackitt said more women are needed to enter engineering and to
recognize that it is a career choice enabling them to make a
difference for future generations.
I believe that access to education for all women in the
developing world and encouraging women to play a key role in
addressing some of the planet's biggest problems by becoming
engineers is key to creating the legacy we need for future
generations, she said.
We need sustainable solutions to the energy, food, water,
health and well being challenges which face both the developed
and developing world.
Hackitts call echoed sentiments expressed earlier this
week from Vince Cable, UK Secretary of State for business,
innovation and skills. Cable, speaking at the Engineering
Employers Federation dinner on Tuesday, said the UK has
fewer female engineers than anywhere else in the European Union and that the nation
could be left behind unless more is done to encourage women to
pursue careers in engineering.
Engineering sits at the heart of our plan for rebalancing
the economy, so I am working across government and with
industry to ensure the next decade is the decade of the
engineer," he said.
"In medicine, women now represent more than half the workforce.
Yet currently fewer than 1 in 10 professional
engineers in UK are women. To achieve our goals, we will
require a long-term partnership with industry to improve
funding for skills training, to highlight the achievements of
pioneering female engineers and to encourage teachers and
parents to spread the message that engineering is an exciting,
high value career option for women as well as men."
Chemical engineering continues to lead the way amongst the
engineering disciplines, with1 in 4 of UK chemical engineering
students female. Civil Engineering lags behind with around 1 in
7, while mechanical engineering draws just 1 in 20.
Over the last decade, the number of women opting to study
chemical engineering at UK universities has increased from 268
to 673, an increase of 151%.
Jarka Glassey, chair of IChemEs education special
interest group, studied in Slovakia and noted a very different
perception of engineering careers amongst women.
"The number of students opting for engineering subjects is much
higher in Slovakia than in the UK," she said. "There are
lessons we must learn from Europe because it would be great to
see more female undergraduates here in the UK.
My personal experience is in the biochemical field and
this is one area where there is quite a high proportion of
women. In the future biochemical engineering will help to
ensure we have safe and secure water and food supplies. It is
an area that has a lot to offer from addressing issues of sustainability to meeting the
medical needs of an aging population."