Last month we wrote about the lack of young people in general choosing engineering as a career path; in our post entitled Sexy Engineering. But even more startling is how few of those young people are female. How can we ensure that businesses include diversity and encourage a wide range of skills? Skills which ultimately improve their own prospects and the continued development of industries in the future?
The rail industry particularly is one such industry with a very low percentage of female staff; just 17.5% and just a shocking 4% in rail engineering.
Adeline Ginn, General Counsel at Angel Trains Limited certainly feels it’s important to encourage more women into the industry. So much so, she founded The Women in Rail group on LinkedIn to provide mentoring, confidence and relationship building for like-minded female professionals to encourage more into the profession.
Ginn said in an interview with Rail Professional, ‘Men in the industry really want to help. The industry might be male dominated but that’s not because it’s anti-female. I’ve never come across that and it’s certainly not how it seems.”
She feels many “women come into the industry by accident”. Where as, it seems men are more like to pursue it as a chosen career path. No doubt both are passionate though, and if we can make steps to remove the genderising of certain career and education paths (particularly in the engineering, design, electrical and managerial sectors), we can improve the impression of Rail as a viable industry for all.
The key to encourage any group into areas where they may not necessary feel welcome is visibility. By raising the profile of women in rail, and providing support – young women in particular will feel less alienated by a heavily male dominated arena.
This has to start early though.
It seems as though celebrity culture and toy manufactures are trying to turn all our girls into pink loving, prissy princesses instead of giving them options. We need to allow them to get their hands dirty, and use their brains for problem solving, science, engineering and other activities that are generally marketed as boys’ domain.
Sadly more and more manufacturers are making the move towards target marketing genders, including some historically gender neutral toys. Ferrero recently released Pink and Blue kinder eggs, with the pink eggs containing “fashion dolls” while the blue eggs contain “Sprinty” cars. Lego were another company who not so long ago jumped on the bandwagon bringing out their range of Lego Friends, which includes play sets with titles like “Butterfly Beauty Shop” and “Stephanie’s Cool Convertible”. It is of course heavily profit led and it appears that making anything a violent shade of pink immediately makes it more sell-able to girls (or at least the parents of girls).
What a shame that girls are yet again reduced to being stereotyped as obsessed with pretty objects, clothing and appearance.
Not that there’s anything wrong with those things per se, but this very subversive message from a young age that pink and frilly is for girls and science and building is for boys, is part of what’s limiting the potential of many bright young women. These are the women who could make a big difference to our Country’s workforce in the future – if only they were given more encouragement.
Amidst all this, one toy company Goldie Blox, (originally a Kick Starter project) is creating toys for girls that encourage building and engineering by combining it with stories, reading and mobile tablet interaction.
It was the brain child of Debbie Sterling, herself an engineer. She says:
“When I was a little girl, I thought the word, “engineering” was nerdy and intimidating and just for boys. I’ve since learned I was so wrong. Engineers build all the important things we use every day…things that make our lives better. The scary truth is that only 11% of engineers are women and girls start losing interest in science as young as age 8! “
Perhaps we could all make a difference by encouraging our daughters, nieces, granddaughters etc. in areas that have traditionally been ear marked for boys? A Goldie Blox toy for Christmas perhaps?
Are you a female rail industry employee? Or do you have any thoughts on why more women aren’t in the sector? Get in touch.
21 November 2013 by Jenny Jones