This year’s International Women in Engineering Day took on extra significance as it coincided with the centenary celebrations of the Women’s Engineering Society in the UK.
Here three University of Sussex female engineering students look ahead to the next century and outline what progress they hope to see on equality in the sector.
Elizabeth Olisa, engineering undergraduate student at the University of Sussex
Over the next 100 years, I hope the number of females studying to become engineers increases to at least half of the total number of students.
With approximately 10 girls out of 200 on my Bachelor’s (BEng) course, and 5 out of 50 on my Master’s (MEng) course, currently we are significantly under represented.
Without fail, almost everyone I speak to is shocked I studied Engineering as a degree and after four years, I still could not tell you the exact reason why this is.
Hopefully in 100 years, it will be considered an equal degree for both men and women.
I also hope this extends into the job sector. I believe it is true that women bring a different dynamic to the engineering industry.
We look at situations from a different perspective to the majority of men. A team of engineers is never completely successful unless it is diverse, which includes a mixture of both men and women.
To reach these goals, we need a lot more representatives.
Female Chief Engineers or Project Managers would be a start towards encouraging more females in the engineering sector.
Equal opportunities such as pay, promotion and job responsibility would incentivise more women to enter the field.
Currently, it is a daunting concept, and takes a lot of determination to pursue a career in engineering. This should not be the case.
Emma Fox, engineering PhD student at the University of Sussex
Attitudes towards women in engineering have undergone a dramatic change over the past 100 years which I hope will continue over the coming century.
Historically women in STEM based subjects are underrepresented yet it is clear that on an intellectual scale, females are able to compete with their male counterparts.
Notable examples of female ingenuity in engineering include the pioneering works of Edith Clarke, the first female electronic engineer, and Ada Lovelace the computer prodigy.
In order to inspire a new generation of females in engineering it is essential that young girls in education are given every opportunity possible to explore engineering as a possible career pathway, without the expectation that they should settle for a more stereotypical role.
Furthermore, it is important to educate the public as to what engineering actually involves.
Engineering is extremely diverse and covers a range of occupations from NASA scientists to working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
Changing public perceptions such as engineering being a heavy-duty, labour intensive job, which is rarely the case, will hopefully inspire parents to encourage and support their daughters to pursue the subject.
Ultimately, by taking the above steps, the engineering workplace will consist of an equal ratio of men to women in 2119.
Saloua El Fantroussi, computer science undergraduate student at the University of Sussex and new president of Robogals Sussex
I hope that in 100 years a girl doing my course will walk into an exam hall and see at least 45% of girls.
While girls get better grades than boys in STEM subjects, engineering and computer science are still widely considered “male degrees”.
I believe this has really impacted a lot of women’s decisions regarding their studies.
I was the only girl in my computer science class in high school and it could’ve discouraged many girls as they wouldn’t make female friends in class and would get treated differently.
In university I was sad to see less than 10 girls between hundreds of students in my lecture halls.
When talking to peers there will be a few who assume I have never done computer science before or don’t understand computing words.
While I do get great support as well, the support can come with awkward comments about how men love “smart” girls.
I really wish for both attitudes to stop, no underestimating women or excessive appreciation for them.
I want equal treatment in the future. I want to see more female lecturers as a female teacher really pushed me towards this course.
And I want to see a lot more girls pursuing this career.
While it is true that female representation is missing in the professional sector, I think the progress needs to start in schools and universities because if there are no girls studying the subject then there won’t be any to employ.
My school had a girls-only STEM day and I wish for many schools to continue in that direction until engineers and computer scientists are at least 45% female.