Half of young people say men are better suited to engineering

New research from O2 reveals a significant number of young people believe women are not suited to working as engineers.

O2’s research of 2,000 young people aged four to 18 highlights how outdated stereotypes are still limiting the ambitions of the next generation. When 4-10 year-olds were prompted to name jobs better suited to men, almost half (49 per cent) said men are better suited to working as engineers.

When asked to choose which careers they believe are better suited to women, children aged between four and 10 favoured the healthcare and beauty sectors:

  • Almost two thirds (64 per cent) said women are better suited to nursing careers
  • Nearly four out of five (79 per cent) think women make the best nannies
  • Almost two thirds (63 per cent) believe women make the best hairdressers

Alison Carr, Director of Policy at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), said: “We know that when girls have access to information about the exciting range of engineering careers they show a real interest in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

“However, we need to engage better with girls and their parents about the importance of STEM subjects and the world of opportunities they can open up for young people in the engineering industry.

“There is a growing need to change perceptions of what modern engineering is and what it can offer girls in terms of a career. The key to doing this is by changing the perceptions of parents who are highly influential in their child’s decision making processes and showing them that engineering doesn’t have to be a messy, mechanical or physically demanding career choice.

“It’s only by making the right resources and information available that we can ensure the engineering sector of the future has the rich and diverse mix of talent it needs to carry on growing and innovating.”

Research published by the IET shows that only 7 per cent of parents feel that engineering would appeal to their daughters as a career.

Even though STEM subjects seem to be popular among girls, only 9 per cent of the engineering workforce in the UK is actually female.

As part of the research, IET also explored the perceptions of the engineering profession amongst parents and their children. When asked what they knew about engineering, 54 per cent of children stated that they didn’t know anything about careers in the industry. When it comes to their interest in pursuing a career in engineering, girls are twice as likely than boys to say that they are not interested in finding out about careers in Engineering (11 per cent vs 5 per cent).

Two in five parents (41 per cent) stated that if asked by their child for advice about a career in Engineering, they feel they wouldn’t know enough to support them. This figure is even higher among the parents of girls, with almost half (44 per cent) saying they don’t know enough about engineering to help.

Notes to editors:

  • Interview opportunities are available with IET spokespeople from a broad range of engineering and technology disciplines including cyber-security, energy, engineering skills, innovation, manufacturing, technology, transport and women in engineering.
  • The IET is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with over 167,000 members in 127 countries. It is also the most interdisciplinary – to reflect the increasingly diverse nature of engineering in the 21st century. Energy, transport, manufacturing, information and communications, and the built environment: the IET covers them all.
  • The IET is working to engineer a better world by inspiring, informing and influencing our members, engineers and technicians, and all those who are touched by, or touch, the work of engineers.
  • We want to build the profile of engineering and change outdated perceptions about engineering in order to tackle the skills gap. This includes encouraging more women to become engineers and growing the number of engineering apprentices.
  • For more information, visit www.theiet.org
  • Follow the IET on Twitter.