This weekend marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This year, they are focusing on the role of Women and Girls and Science as relates to the Sustainable Development Goals - namely SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG17 (means of implementation).
The gender gap in science, engineering, manufacturing, maths etc. has persisted throughout the years at all levels in these industries. Despite huge progress being made towards increasing the number of women going into these fields at education level, they are still hugely under represented. This day is so important for everyone to come together and work to tackle these issues, for girls of a young age, all the way through to adults.
Of course, it is not a question of celebrating this day and that be it. Everyone can, on a daily basis and in all areas, be agents of change. Recruiting more women into the industry would be good for engineering, good for the economy and simply the right thing to do.
Part of the problem has been perception – men wearing hard hats, high vis jackets and covered in oil. The reality is very different; there are countless careers waiting for the right candidates in civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering.
There are other glaring examples of wasted opportunity. A study by National Grid showed that the energy sector has 400,000 jobs that need to be filled. With the ‘green agenda’ moving rapidly up the priority list and the UN's SDGs, we desperately need the people with the right qualifications (irrespective of gender) to fill the gap.
Surely the key to change is to dispel the myths and introduce flexible working practices that not only encourage women into careers in industry but also to keep them there for the longer term.
As Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg said; “The word ‘female,’ when inserted in front of something, is always with a note of surprise. Female COO, female pilot, female surgeon — as if the gender implies surprise … One day there won’t be female leaders. There will just be leaders.”