As former education secretary Lord Kenneth Baker stated earlier this year, “Engaging girls in engineering is a national challenge.” With less than 10 per cent of the UK engineering workforce female (compared to 14-30 per cent in our European counterparts), and almost half of maintained co-ed schools sending no girls to take A-Level Physics - the statistics can make pretty grim reading.
But there is a shift. Companies are realising that attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce will maximise innovation, creativity and competitiveness. Women engineers are getting involved in exciting and far reaching projects stretching from the Cross Rail project (Linda Miller), the London Eye (Jane Wernick) and running oil rigs (Melissa Clare) to heading up organisations such as the Fab Labs network (Sherry Lassiter) and the Royal Academy of Engineers (Prof Dame Ann Dowling).
Behind the headlines, there are many women in a vast array of engineering and technical fields who are using 3D CAD and enjoying an exciting and challenging career.
Last year SOLIDWORKS launched their Women In Engineering (WIE) recognition programme to help recognise the outstanding achievements by honouring one female engineer per month who is making a valuable contribution in their engineering field. The first UK recipient was Michelle Shearman, who at the age of 14 was the first female to get accepted into the Young Apprenticeship Engineering Programme. Fast forward and she is now in her first year of Level three qualification and working as an apprentice for Sumac Precision Engineering.
“I’m literally working my way round each of the sections at the moment,” says Michelle. “I worked in assembly and I’ve just finished some timing fabrication where I’ve learned welding and all sorts. I didn’t think I’d like it but I actually love it.”
Marie Planchard, director of SOLIDWORKS education portfolio and a mechanical engineer herself, sits on the WIE board and says the programme is exceeding their expectations.
“Since announcing at SOLIDWORKS World 2015 that the programme was available to women globally we have been overwhelmed with talented and inspiring women engineers.
“I recently nominated Kristen Railey, a mechanical engineer for Lincoln Labs in Boston, who also mentors youths at the weekend running Girls Who Build engineering workshops. These workshops are encouraging girls to design wearable technology, for example 3D printing a bracelet and programming a wearable electronics circuit that will light up in their shoes. It’s women like this that we are excited about showcasing their contributions to the SOLIDWORKS community and society.”
Other recipients of the programme include, Rachel York, who’s passion for drawing took her hand drafting 2D legacy projects to 3D CAD and she now runs the SOLIDWORKS User Group in New York. While Sukrutha Raman Bhadouria, a senior software engineer in Test on the Salesform Platform also works as MD for Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners, an organisation which has over 15,000 female members who get together to learn and inspire each other.
Marie says creating awareness of the variety of roles that women can achieve in the industry is important because it shows the next generation that engineering is not all about men tinkering away in sheds with a pair of oily overalls on.
“The WIE programme is all about creating awareness, supporting and facilitating,” says Marie. “Young women need a sense of purpose to do the right thing and they have a different skills set: Creativity, purpose, team focus, organisation, leadership and resolving conflict all make up female characteristics. And it’s not just research. The Pax Fund shows how top global companies perform well when there are women in leadership positions.
“There is certainly a STEM skills shortage gap and women make up 50 per cent of the population, so it’s important we reach out to the other half of our society and inspire others. These recipients are not rock stars, just women doing their jobs and helping others achieve their goals.”
To nominate a recipient for the SOLIDWORKS Women In Engineering Programme, get all the information here at: