Social Responsibility

Bring your daughters to work

Thu, 25 May 2017 16:21:00 BST

The labs in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE) were buzzing with excitement back in April, as girls aged nine to 15 turned their hand to landing an Airbus, flying drones, programming robots and building a skyscraper.

This was MACE’s first Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, inspired by the WISE Campaign for gender balance in science, technology and engineering, and it was open to the daughters of all staff members in MACE. The aim of the day was to get girls interested in STEM subjects and encourage them to choose these at A level and beyond.

The event marks a commitment from the MACE Social Responsibility team to reach out to local communities and help them deliver a ‘call to action’ for future engineers from underrepresented groups. The world needs engineers more than ever, and with girls representing barely 9% of engineering professionals, it’s time we do what we can to change this.

The first question of the day from one of the pupils: “Isn’t it just about fixing cars?”, this reflected the problem of just how narrowly engineering is perceived. But before too long, the pupils were discussing how exactly engineering could address global challenges related to water and food supply, and the level of enthusiasm on show was inspiring.

Such was the success of the event, the organisers hope it can be rolled out across all of the Faculty of Science and Engineering schools next year. Organiser Rachael Ashworth said: “It’s been found that children of primary school age – like the girls attending today – are at the best age to get them involved and thinking about science. Hopefully, with this foundation, it can be an interest they have for life.”

There was a chance for the attendees to meet a panel of MACE lecturers and graduates – and to ask them anything. Technician Natalie Parish said her daughter had been “thrilled” at the opportunity to come and see where her mum worked. She added that the chance to visit real, working labs was “fun and engaging” for kids, and that the graduates and lecturers the pupils met had inspired them.

“I didn’t get into engineering until I was 25. I actually did an English degree and it wasn’t for me. If someone had told me what engineering involves and how exciting it is, I would have done it [from the start],” Natalie revealed.

Encouraging girls to consider A levels, a degree and, eventually, a career in STEM is a key part of WISE. Analysis conducted as part of the campaign reveals that just one-third of girls who take maths and science at GCSE go on to take a Level 3 core STEM qualification, compared to 80% of boys. Encouraging more girls to pursue a STEM qualification in higher education could go some way to making up the UK’s annual STEM worker shortfall.

The University is also committed to encouraging and promoting women in STEM. Last year, we launched our Women of Wonder campaign, which you can learn more about here.

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