An initiative aimed at ensuring South Yorkshire leads the way in supporting women to succeed in science, engineering and technology, was launched recently at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Research Manufacturing Centre (AMRC).
Female engineers, universities and businesses gathered at the event which marked the South Yorkshire launch of the Smith Institute report, which highlights how women still remain significantly under-represented in the fields of science, engineering and technology.
Hosted by Pam Liversidge, Master Cutler, with a keynote presentation from Meg Munn MP, editor of the Smith Institute’s report, the event aimed to provide a forum for companies, universities and organisations in the region to discuss how to address the problem of under-representation, which is an issue on a national and international scale.
Entitled Unlocking Potential – perspectives on women in science, engineering and technology, the report describes how the UK economy loses billions of pounds when qualified women scientists, technologists and engineers leave for work in other fields, or are unemployed or economically inactive. It addition, the report outlines how this issue needs to be rectified in order for the UK to develop and grow in the areas of science, engineering and technology and remain one of the top economies in the world.
During the event, which also featured talks from Firth Rixson, the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology and Professor Mike Hounslow, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering, the importance of harnessing both men and women who work in science, engineering and technology as role models to inspire younger generations was discussed. In addition, it was stressed that careers for girls in science, engineering and technology must be shown as interesting, challenging and rewarding, support must be offered to those wanting flexible working or career breaks after having children, and more part time apprenticeships should be made available.
At the University of Sheffield, work is already well underway to ensure each faculty is working closely with staff from the Department of Human Resources to develop their own equality and diversity action plan in a bid to make a difference to the number of women working in science, engineering and technology. The wide range of actions featured in the plans include targeted recruitment of female students, more networking and mentoring opportunities for women, and active support for returners to the workplace. It is hoped the University will lead the way for other businesses and organisations in the region to follow suit.
Professor Mike Hounslow, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering, said: “At the University of Sheffield we recognise that the country needs more high quality engineering graduates, and that currently far too few of those graduates are women. We need to do more to explain to young women why engineering is an interesting subject to study and a great career.
“Our aim is that the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sheffield should be the first choice for women to come both to study and to work.”
Meg Munn, MP for Sheffield Heeley, said: “Around 70 per cent of women with relevant qualifications leave the workplace, never to return, something that results in a significant waste of skilled workers, with consequences for individual businesses and the UK economy as a whole.
“I\’m calling on businesses and academic institutions in South Yorkshire to put in place measures to increase recruitment of women into engineering and to improve retention rates.”