Biomimetics and Biomimicry in Engineering

‘Does Sex Matter Any More? Gender Segregation at Work’ at Scottish Parliament

In Comment on 2010/06/18 at 2:54 pm

A small group of high profile public figures gathered last evening for a session at the Scottish Parliament, in Edinburgh. The discussion was around the barriers that are hindering more girls to study engineering and science and, even more important, why there is such a large drop out as their careers progress.

One of the figures that struck me the most was the 5% female students in undergraduate (UG) engineering studies 25 years ago (personal statement by Dr Sandra Cairncross, Dean of Engineering, Computing & Creative Industries which coincides with the figures i provided on the current situation in Mechanical Engineering.

Engineering studies are particularly bad at attracting female students. This is not the case in Science (e.g. Biology or Physics). Despite almost parity percentages male:female in UG studies, e.g. 30% in Physics, 50% in Biology, these percentages drop by the time people progress into postgraduate or PhD studies, and it is even lower at post-doc researcher stage. The percentages are as bad as in Engineering when comparing female chairs in academic deparments.

Both the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, Jim Mather, and Alison McInnes MSP draw our attention to the barriers that female encounter when they access power position and enter board rooms. Although being common knowledge, there is not a drive from Industry or Academic Senior management to tackle those issues.

Many in the group still address difficulties in balancing work and life and long working hours as main hurdles. However, recent research is starting to bring light to the key issues: lack of supporting networks and mentoring. See this article by Jennifer Hunt, ‘Why do women leave Science and engineering’.

The event was organised and facilitated by the Scottish Resource Centre, based at Edinburgh napier University. The UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET), with its Scottish Centre, is the government agency whose remit is to lobby for parity and ‘fair play’ in the job market.

Links:

UKRC for Women in SET: http://www.ukrc4setwomen.org/

Scottish Resource Centre for Women in SET:  LinkedIn group

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  1. I think we can learn from coutries such as Russia, Italy and Portugal where the number of women at faculty level is much higher – between 20 and 30% (see http://www.aps.org/programs/women/sitevisits/summary.cfm). Why do they have a better gender balance?

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