In response to concerns in the UK regarding the gender balance in engineering, the numbers of girls taking STEM subjects at school and university, and the barriers that females face to enter the engineering profession, a research paper presented at the SEFI* 2014 Annual Conference in Birmingham has examined which factors influence girls to become engineers and the challenges they face.
"Early career female engineers: Influences and challenges", discusses academic, family and personal factors that influenced research participants to study engineering, as well as initiatives designed to increase the number of female engineers. Report authors noted that the encouragement of teachers, single-sex environments and engineering initiatives aimed specifically at female students were mentioned by research participants as positive influences, as was the role of family in providing support and role models. On the other hand, many participants were let down by the lack of helpful career advice at school and felt that stereotypes regarding engineering being a male profession still exist in the general community.
*SEFI stands for Société Européenne pour la Formation des Ingénieurs (European Society for Engineering Education).