In African countries in particular, women perform manual labour—thus they are more aptly positioned to communicate gender-responsive insights. And around the world, an increase in women engineers would translate to additional role models for future generations.
Women comprise half the world’s population, require the same resources to live and face the same global challenges as men do. However, fewer females are involved in the design and development of smart, sustainable technology-based solutions that would make the world a better place for all of us.
When improved engineering is needed to achieve global sustainable development goals by 2030, and when equality is a worldwide goal, the engineering workforce must diversify – a fact to consider in the wake of UNESCO’s first world engineering day 4 March.
The advancement of women in engineering helps everyone by enhancing the potential to devise inclusive, innovative solutions for worldwide issues.
Female engineer Stephanie Kwolek discovered a bulletproof fibre known as Kevlar, which shields soldiers around the globe. Female engineer Josephine Cochrane invented the dishwasher. These women changed the world—and, shamefully, received very little credit for doing so.
Some countries have achieved full gender parity in the field of engineering. These include Lithuania, Norway, Latvia, Bulgaria, and Norway. Overall, the world has come a long way since 1960, when women comprised only one percent of the engineering workforce worldwide.
Yet more needs to be done to engage women engineers in the fight against climate change, and to provide access to clean water and sanitation, clean energy and more livable cities and rural areas. Women assume many different jobs and duties, both professionally and domestically, and thus can suggest impactful solutions to global crisis.
This is evidenced in African countries, where women in rural regions perform the majority of manual labour on farms—including the collection of fuelwoods. It is these women who grasp the value of energy solutions like clean cooking stoves.
However, women comprise only eight to 10% of engineers in nations like Kenya and South Africa, and thus their gender as a whole is limited in terms of their nationwide input.
Perhaps this is why car crash tests only included male dummies until 2011, and the production of medications was researched with the treatment of male bodies in mind.
The recruitment of additional female engineers can enhance the design of new products and solutions to help both males and females.
Women engineers are required as role models to inspire the youth to study STEM subjects and nurture a new generation of engineers.
Many nations around the world are experiencing a severe depletion of engineering talent, one worsened by the prejudice that restrains half the potential workforce.
Campaigns to enhance gender representation in higher education, like the UK government-funded Athena Swan Charter and the UNESCO STEM and Gender Advancement Project (SAGA) toward the achievement of enhanced national policies, have made major and significant change.
Yet even in nations like Kuwait, where women comprise 60% of university engineering students, many do not advance to the workforce.
Those who have become engineers in that area are renowned for their inclusive and sustainable solutions, like valuable attachments to motorize traditional wheelchairs or heat-resistant drones to aid firefighters. Yet even these pioneers are rarely afforded leadership positions in their field.
In Italy, about one in five engineers are women. The first and only woman councillor at the National Council of Engineers was named in 2011.
Overall in Italy, the number of female engineering graduates has elevated from 16% in 2000 to 28% in 2017. Every little rise, every little boost grants visibility to opportunities for women engineers, while guaranteeing more equal, inclusive and representative policies at government and corporate levels.
Aiding in this effort is WFEO’s Committee on Women in Engineering, which honours the achievements and milestones of women engineers and grants women a global engineering platform by way of frequent theme-centred programs and events, as well as supportive, collaborative channels and networks.
It is vital that we keep up the good fight to include more women in engineering, so that they can contribute truly and fully to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Women need an equal opportunity to engineer an equal—and better–world.