New research, conducted by Savanta ComRes for Network Rail, has highlighted a lack of female role models within Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) sectors.
As a result, Network Rail is promoting the contributions of women in engineering to mark International Women in Engineering Day (Tuesday 23 June).
The survey, of more than 2,000 16-21 year-olds in Great Britain, showed that two-thirds (64%) of total participants and three quarters (77%) of young women asked felt there were not enough female role models within STEM, and just 26% of females intended to pursue careers in STEM fields (though 27% did intend to study further in a STEM area).
Participants were asked if they recognised famous names and faces of STEM figures. More than 80% were familiar with male figures such as Steven Hawking and Sir Isaac Newton, but just 18% knew of Ada Lovelace, who is credited as the first computer programmer for her visionary work in computer science in the 19th century.
Network Rail has therefore launched a new competition, open to everyone aged between 5 and 14, aimed at promoting the work of female engineers and inspiring the next generation with the fantastic inventions and feats of engineering from women through history.
Loraine Martins, director of diversity and inclusion for Network Rail, said: “We know that more diverse gender-balanced teams are more engaged, more collaborative, more motivated and safer. The ambitions to develop our infrastructure and the skills shortage that our industry faces means that encouraging girls and young women to pursue careers in engineering is vital. Promoting positive female role models is a great way of providing inspiration for future generations to join us.
“From Mary Anderson, inventor of the windscreen wiper, to Marie Van Brittan Brown, who invented the home security system, there’s a host of women who have come up with inventions and engineering solutions which we simply couldn’t live without.
“I’m delighted we’re running this competition to promote their work, and I hope this will inspire young people, change perceptions and make these positive female role models more visible and relatable to the next generation of engineers.”
Children are invited to consider what our world would be like without the work of a female engineer and create a poster, poem or story to explain their findings.
Entries will be displayed on screens at Network Rail’s stations in a celebration of the impact female engineers have had on our world. Two winners of different genders will also be selected by an independent judging panel from each of the three age groups (5 to 8, 9 to 11 and 12 to 14) to win amazing and unique prizes.
All winners will have the chance to be inspired and ask questions to female role models in engineering. Winners from the youngest age category will also be turned into cartoon characters for a starring role in an Emily the Engineer activity book, whilst winners from the older age categories will be presented with a one-of-a-kind VIP Golden Ticket experience day* at Network Rail.
To find out more, visit Network Rail’s website.