Will the gender balance on Engineering and Physical Sciences programmes be the same in 2026?

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What’s the issue ? Well we can argue, as to exactly which sample/technical specialism we consider – but it is hard to argue that there isn’t an issue.

Some ball park figures to set the scene.

  • Engineering, averages ~16% female, Women in STEM – facts and statistics (Reporting period 2012-2015, IET https://communities.theiet.org/files/8042)
  • Physics, average nationally, ~21% female (Diversity lead, Institute of Physics).

This is not for want of trying! We have collectively in Birmingham and across the UK invested effort and financial resource in encouraging female students to consider degrees that include Physical Sciences and Engineering.

There are national equality awards, Athena SWAN and discipline specific Institute of Physics Juno which we work successfully towards (and achieve) in the University.https://epsequalitydiversity.wordpress.com/

But the question remains, how different will the gender balance be in 2026? We know the pool, that is the school year that these future scientists and engineers will come from, and the curriculum they are being taught: what can we do and what should we do to alert them to the opportunities that are open to them?

An interesting approach is language related, ‘Not for people like me’, an initiative by Women in Science and Engineering, and commissioned by National Rail. https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/resources/2014/11/not-for-people-like-me – we will be digesting the implications of this, and becoming trained in this approach in the New Year.[Let me know if you’d like to be a reserve for a place on the workshop]

Where would I like us to be? Empirical observation suggests that 30% changes the class dynamic, and interestingly this is an aspirational number for boardrooms https://30percentclub.org/

How can we get there? What would persuade your child/friend’s chid to consider such a career path?

5 thoughts on “Will the gender balance on Engineering and Physical Sciences programmes be the same in 2026?”

  1. Great questions. What will persuade more of today’s 8 year old girls to consider studying engineering and physical sciences? These disciplines produce knowledge and innovations that have a very real impact of the lives of women and girls, so a female perspective is much needed. Maybe this is one way to approach the challenge…?

  2. Engineering, science and careers are not a huge focus for 8 year old children. They are impressionable, but not to an extent that their future careers are ingrained from that point onward. The outdated concept of feminine and masculine career paths should be dismissed completely from education and home influence. With current feminist and equality movements, such boundaries are already beginning to collapse and the percentage of women in science and engineering fields are also increasing with a snowball effect as more role models for the female science community begin to emerge. Based on the current state of society there will be an inevitable growth but the rate of that growth by 2026 will be hard to predict with so many variables.

  3. There is a lot of work being done on this in secondary schools, but could we encourage more women to move into engineering and physical sciences by offering taster modules in the first year or more opportunities for collaborative activities or intercalated years linked to other subjects?

  4. The short answer is hopefully not. We need the balance change and improve into the future. I have seen the gender balance improve over the last few decades and this has had a significant and positive impact on all areas of engineering. There are still barriers, largely centred on perceptions, both at school and in the work place. This is changing and as we have a more gender balanced senior engineering management teams (and hence role models) for the various engineering industries out there, this will improve even more. Engineering influences all area of life, so all have a role to play.

  5. A very interesting question. I am very keen to see the impact that the ‘Not for people like me’, initiative will have over the next few years. A very interesting workshop.

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