Engineering touches every aspect of our lives, whether in computing, electrical, mechanical, and many more, and therefore offer a wide selection of career opportunities for future generations.

However, for some, and particularly young girls and women, it feels like society is discourage from considering them.

It’s a well-known fact that women are underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) occupations. According to a survey by PwC, women make up just 15 per cent of people working in STEM occupations in the UK. Clearly, there is an issue and sadly, it means women are missing out on a fulfilling and creative career path and as an industry we need to help address it.

Creativity

When talking to several engineers at Imagination Technologies, it was felt that there was a disconnected with how the industry is perceived and the reality. They spoke with passion and conviction about just how creative the industry actually is.

Brigid Smith, director of hardware engineering, said, “I was surprised a few years ago to be asked by a friend if I regretted not going into a creative career. To me, it was a strange question, as I would never consider engineering not to be creative. Engineering is about problem solving and at Imagination we are constantly coming up with new and innovative ideas to improve what we do. I worked for years as a hardware design engineer, so it was my ideas, my solutions to the specification that was given which I coded up and ended up becoming part of the customer’s silicon. That’s my design in millions of phones out there – exciting stuff!”

“I definitely think electronic engineering is creative. Problem solving is one of the main skills we need, and this requires creativity to find new ways to solve the problems,” says Anna Hedley, senior customer engineering manager. “We are designing IP for future products so through collaboration and imagination we need to work out what future requirements are going to be and how to implement, sell and support them. My role as customer engineer involves finding creative ways of presenting information to customers from around the globe to help them best understand our cores and solve any issues they have with implementation. Without imagination, we would never be able to provide the advancement that is seen in the electronics industry around the world.”

Changing perceptions

So why are people, particularly females, overlooking engineering as career option in 2019? A lot of it probably comes down to perception. Engineering as a career choice has generally been labelled masculine, despite programming in the early days being considered a woman’s job. It’s not necessarily anti-female but rather, historically, it has typically attracted and celebrated males. If you Google “greatest engineers,” all the engineers that are listed are men. Where are Edith Clarke and Emily Roebling?

It could be that some people simply “opt out” too, thinking that they aren’t smart enough or don’t have the skill set to become engineers. However, that really isn’t the case. One way to combat this issue is to reassure people that being good at maths and science at school isn’t the only thing that makes you a good engineer.

“To me, electronic engineering is like playing with more advanced LEGO pieces. There are infinite ways to build something, so the final design depends on what pieces we use and how we choose to put them together. This creative aspect is a large part of why I chose electronic engineering, plus it is very rewarding to see the finished product doing something useful,” says Simon Van Winden, graduate hardware engineer.

Imagination’s head of talent acquisition, Nick Burden, added, “We must raise young people’s awareness of how fulfilling and secure an engineering career path is so they can make informed choices for their future. This is why a number of our engineers have been visiting local schools to tell students about their experiences of studying and working in engineering.”

Attracting women

There isn’t a “quick fix” when it comes to addressing the lack of women in STEM. It’s even been suggested to me that since a number of high profile initiatives have been launched encouraging girls and women to study STEM subjects, numbers have dipped further – currently it’s just one in four graduates in core STEM subjects are women. We must change this, and Imagination’s Elliot Taylor, hardware engineer, makes a compelling point about the importance of diversity.

“We all think differently, and every individual is uniquely creative. By increasing the diversity of engineers, new ideas and thought processes are brought to the table, improving the workplace and the quality of our work. Approximately 50% of the population are women who are from a multitude of different backgrounds, with a vast range of experiences. By increasing the number of female engineers, the technology industry will become far more diverse which has the potential to lead to exciting new discoveries and breakthroughs.”

To make engineering a sought-after career, we must dispel the image of it being dull and boring and show how creative and exciting it really is. It’s not just about being the most technical, the best engineers will have other skills. We need female role models to normalise engineering, to influence parents and teachers, and to increase activities in schools.

The future

With the increasing demand for new technology, products and materials, tomorrow’s engineers have an exciting and valuable career ahead of them. As Elliot Taylor, comments, “Engineering is such an exciting field that is completely changing the world as we know it. Being an electronic engineer allows you to be truly creative, to design products that will change how we tackle anything from health to entertainment. Technology is becoming more and more prevalent in every part of our lives, why would you not want to be involved in shaping how this world changes?”

My hope is that in the years to come, when my children and grandchildren Google “amazing engineers”, not only will they continue to see amazing advancements that have transformed the world for the better, but that there will be a lot more women credited with these advancements.