Schools Join Forces With Siemens To Address Shortage Of Women Engineers

The Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) and Siemens UK are delivering a new teacher training initiative to inspire more girls to pursue science and engineering careers.

Industry needs 186,000 new engineers every year between now and 2024 to fill the engineering skills gap. Siemens says that even the most positive projection of graduates entering engineering is still 20,000 fewer than needed. The shortage is most pronounced in women, who make up only 15% of UK first degree undergraduates studying engineering.

In the training, Siemens provide teachers with free-curriculum linked resources that place the spotlight on modern female role models in science, engineering and technology. These role models include Helen Sharman, who went from working with chocolate for Mars to becoming the first British astronaut in space, and Professor Sheila Windle, who noticed the wobble in smoke rings – the ‘Windle Instability’ – and subsequently became the first woman Under Secretary to the US Air Force.

As a result of the training, teachers and Siemens’ STEM ambassadors can now use these resources in their own presentations for girls in both GSA and state schools around the country. The resources motivate girls to challenge gender stereotypes in jobs and raise their career aspirations.

Guest speakers on the course include Jessica Rowson, U-19s gender balance manager at the Institute of Physics, and Dr Jess Wade, post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Physics and Centre for Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London. Dr Wade also runs the website www.makingphysicsfun.com. Jessica Rowson outlined some of the current research behind why less girls take physics post 16 and what teachers can do in terms of being aware of bias, linking to careers and talking to students about stereotypes.

In partnership with the Girls’ Schools Association, Siemens and Children’s BBC presenter and scientist Fran Scott with Great Scott! Productions have already delivered a number of STEM and engineering stage show events, with live stage experiments, direct to girls in Year 8 and 9 around the country. The project (nominated for a WISE Campaign award) has so far reached approximately 1400 girls from state and independent schools, with GSA schools inviting their neighbouring state schools to participate. However, sharing resources through this new training has the potential to reach even more girls as well as to enable teachers to form fruitful relationships with engineers from local Siemens offices. Feedback from the showcases indicates that, after participating in the shows, the majority of girls can imagine themselves in a STEM career and feel more inspired and informed about the variety of careers available to them in STEM.

Brenda Yearsley, UK Schools & Education Manager, Siemens, commented on the training events:
This partnership and collaboration with experts in the fields of industry, technology, engineering, teaching, academia and media has been invaluable to creating something truly unique. We are absolutely delighted to have such a strong collaboration with the GSA on the business-critical topic of achieving gender equality in STEM. As one of the UK’s leading technology companies we are committed to nurturing and building a pipeline of STEM talent to inspire a new generation of engineers and shrink the skills gap. Encouraging and fostering curiosity in young girls to think positively about their future in STEM careers can remove misconceptions and stereotyping of subject areas. These training sessions will allow us to cascade and deliver this programme far and wide with GSA teachers. We’re proud this project has been nominated as a finalist in the forthcoming WISE awards. Our ongoing partnership with the GSA has gone from strength to strength.”

Dr Natalie Simmonds from Loughborough High School and Karen Marshall from The Ladies College have both attended the training.
Dr Natalie Simmonds said: “Having an industry perspective is so valuable when we are giving advice to the next generation of women about going into STEM careers. In a world which is rapidly changing it is important that young people are aware of these exciting opportunities. One way that we can achieve this is by introducing young women to role models across all STEM disciplines, getting away from the stereotyped image that only men in lab coats do science. Going to this training has inspired me to run more events aimed at a younger audience and reminded me why I wanted to be a scientist myself.
Karen Marshall, said: “Young people need to be learn about the huge variety of jobs they may never have heard of. Working with companies like Siemens allows teachers to understand the skills that our pupils need to have when they are ready for the job market. Schools co-operating with other schools – state and independent – is also important so that all young people can benefit and be inspired.”

Delegates also heard from Charlotte Hall who is a Siemens Healthineers apprentice and an advocate of the apprenticeship model. She is the first woman engineer in her role to be trained in Siemens breast screening technology – the Mammomat Inspiration – which emits 30 per cent less radiation. She said:
“When I was young I thought engineering was all cars and engines. It’s important that girls learn from a young age that engineering isn’t a dirty job. Girls need support from school and their family to break away and do what they want to do when it’s different from their friends.”

GSA President Charlotte Avery said:
“We’re very excited about this. Sharing resources with teachers and Siemens STEM ambassadors ‘on the ground’ will enable many more girls to learn about what women in engineering and other science jobs actually do. Our teachers can now deliver their own events for girls in their own and local state schools, using all the information from Siemens. It has huge potential to keep on growing.”

 

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