Encounters with Engineering: First experiences of women students

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In the UK several Government initiatives have been introduced to encourage women to pursue careers in the engineering professions. Such initiatives have had some success in increasing the number of women studying engineering. In 1973 only 3% of engineering and technology students were women, compared to 15% in 2004/05. However, only 1.6% of all female students in higher education are based in engineering. Furthermore, the increase in women engineering students has failed to translate into an equivalent increase in women engineering professionals, with indications that less than 10% of professional engineers are women. This briefing is being circulated to engineering educators and employers and professional bodies; it offers an insight into women’s experiences of engineering education and employment and some recommendations for moving forward. The briefing draws on a recent ESRC funded study conducted by Professor Barbara Bagilhole, Dr Andrew Dainty and Abigail Powell of Loughborough University, and Professor Richard Neale of the University of Glamorgan. In response to the issues outlined above, the study aimed to develop an understanding of women engineering students’ earliest encounters with engineering workplaces on their future career intentions. Workplace experiences were examined in the form of the year-long industrial placement taken in higher education, as this usually represents women’s first major contact with the engineering industry. The industrial placement also represents a key transitional stage in each student’s process of becoming (or not becoming) an engineering professional.
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Powell, Abigail
Bagilhole, Barbara
Dainty, Andrew
Neale, Richard
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