PGCE Specialist Conference Research: Finding ways to get more young women into engineering and technology in pre – 18 education

Standard

img_0020

Name of Researcher

Michael Oyebode

Subject Area: 

Engineering

Paper Title:

Finding ways to get more young women into engineering and technology in pre – 18 education.

Abstract:

A research looking at the factors why more young women (14 – 19 year olds) are not taking up an engineering and technology related subject at both GCSE and post-16 level education.

I have noticed that more young men take up an engineering and technology related subject compared to young women. I want to know the factors surrounding the decisions of young women at age 14 then at 16.

“There has been some progress in recent years: for example, the percentage of secondary school age children who would consider a career in engineering increased from 29% to 46% between 2011 and 2013.13 However, the engineering profession continues to suffer from widespread misconceptions and lack of visibility that deter young people, and especially girls, from pursuing it as a career. In polling carried out for Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, more boys reported being encouraged to think about engineering as a career, particularly by their parents.”

From the age of 14 onwards, young women and men in England are given ever – more control over the direction of their education – gaining access to a variety of different qualification types and an ever – expanding menu of possible subjects.

“At  each  stage,  their  choices  can  have  far‐reaching  consequences  for  both  their subsequent  education  options  and  their  later life  outcomes.  Subject  and  course  choices  made  at  14 influence  the  options available after  the age  of  16, and  post 16  choices will in  turn affect later  options available  to  young  people  in  terms  of  further  study  at  university,  further  training  and  employment opportunities. At every stage, choices are likely to affect young people’s later‐life employment prospects, earnings and job satisfaction.”

(Department for Education. (2010).)

 

Introduction and Historical Context

This research paper investigates the factors influencing why more young women (14 – 19 year olds) are not taking up an engineering and technology related subject at both GCSE and post-16 level education.

Research from the Joint Council for Qualifications (Table 1) shows that more young men take up an engineering and technology related subject compared to young women. I want to know the factors surrounding the decisions of young women at age 14 then at 16. Table 1 shows that in Construction and Design & Technology that there are more male than female students. For example in Construction 559 male students sat the exam whereas only 24 female students sat the exam. It was also noted that when the female students do take up the subject they often excel more than their male peers.

Image

Table 1 – GCSE and Entry Level Certificate Results Summer 2014 

Research by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (2013) showed that there has been some progress made in recent years in an increasing number of secondary school age children considering a career in engineering with an increase from 29% to 46% between 2011 and 2013. However it was noted that the engineering profession continues to suffer from widespread misconceptions and lack of visibility that deter young people, and especially girls, from pursing it as a career.

From the age of 14 onwards, young women and men in England are given ever – more control over the direction of their education – gaining access to a variety of different qualification types and an ever – expanding menu of possible subjects.

The BBC (2014) researched into the variety of optional subjects offered to children in secondary schools. It was found that offered subjects are split into four groups of subjects known as ‘entitlement areas’ and a child must be offered at least one course in each of the groups. These groups are:

  • Arts (including art and design, music, dance, drama and media arts
  • Design and Technology
  • Humanities (history and geography)
  • Modern Foreign Languages

“At  each  stage,  their  choices  can  have  far‐reaching  consequences  for  both  their subsequent  education  options  and  their  later life  outcomes.  Subject  and  course  choices  made  at  14 influence  the  options available after  the age  of  16, and  post 16  choices will in  turn affect later  options available  to  young  people  in  terms  of  further  study  at  university,  further  training  and  employment opportunities. At every stage, choices are likely to affect young people’s later‐life employment prospects, earnings and job satisfaction.”

(Department for Education. (2010).)

Consequences of not choosing an Engineering related subject

The consequences of not choosing an engineering related subject for pre 18 education is that accessibility to some engineering courses would be limited due to the course requirement having a prior knowledge of the subject. Time and time girls/parents are making the wrong decisions and can’t get into engineering education due to misconceptions of the subject and poor career guidance.

Reasons for gender differences in subject choice

Sociologists have come up with four main reasons:

  • Early socialisation

Boys and girls are brought up differently from a very early age. Boys and girls are dressed differently, played with different types of toys and encouraged to partake in different activities. Schools reinforce this gender difference by encouraging boys to be man like and girls to be lady like.

  • Gendered subject images

Certain subjects such as science and engineering are seen as male – dominated subjects whereas art subject are seen as female – dominated subjects.

  • Peer Pressure

Subject choice can be influenced by peer pressure. Other boys and girls may apply pressure to an individual if they disapprove of his or her choice.

  • Gendered career opportunities

An important reason for differences in subject choice is the fact that employment is highly gendered: jobs tend to be sex-typed as ‘men’s’ or women’s’.

(Webb, R., Westergaard, H., Trobe, K., & Steel, L. (2008).)

Iowa State University (2015) conducted a research looking at how boys and girls are treated differently and immersed in differing environments. The research showed that boys and girls develop different needs, wants, skills, and temperaments. They become different people who do not question why they are different or how they ended up that way.

An article on the Marked by Teachers (2015) website looked at gender domains in which tasks and activities that boys and girls see as male or female territory is more relevant to themselves. Therefore children are more confident when engaging in tasks that they see as part of their own domain.

 Engineering as a career has to do with the design, building and use of engines, machines and structures infact it is the application of scientific ideas and principles, therefore, it follows that whoever ventures into this field of study should be seen to be capable in the application of scientific ideas and principles. Studies have shown that some adolescents to a greater or lesser extent are influenced by peers and parents in their career decision making process.”

(Free Patents Online. (2012).)

Outline of Methodology

The research for the paper was carried out using the survey questionnaire methodology. The survey questionnaire was carried out using Survey Monkey. I used the Market Research Society set of guidelines when designing my survey questionnaire in order to ensure I get the best possible results from the survey.

“A good questionnaire should engage the respondent from the start. Technically, the quality of data depends entirely on respondent engagement and interest in the subject matter. Boredom, irrelevance, and questioning that are outside their frame of reference are likely to lead to poor data.”

(Market Research Society. (2011).)

The survey questionnaire had roughly 10 questions which where a mixture of yes/no, open ended, and multiple choice answer questions. Questions were asked about what the participant is currently taken or took for both GCSE and Post 16 education. A list of engineering related subjects is presented to the participant and a question is asked if they would take any of the subjects as an option and reasons.

The participants for the survey questionnaire was divided into 5 female participants in each year groups – Year 10, Year 11, Year 12, and Year 13. The sampling strategy was based on simple random sampling strategy where each participant was female and was randomly chosen to complete the survey questionnaire. The simple random sampling strategy was chosen because it was the easiest way to get the participants to complete the questionnaire in the time I had for the research.

“Why do we use sample surveys? We have no choice when the population is continuous (that is, effectively infinite), but we can define a sample from either a finite or an infinite population.”

(Ipsos Mori. (2015).)

The survey questionnaire included an abstract describing the background to the research, as well as an informed consent sheet allowing the survey participant to make an informed decision before taking part in the survey.

The results from the survey questionnaire were then collated and presented in a mind map and table format to allow the results to be easily interpreted.

Presentation and analysis of findings

The research survey plan was to survey 5 female participants in each year group. However the number that took part were slightly different. 3 female partipants took part in Year 10; 4 female participants in Year 11; 7 female participants in Year 12 (First Year at College); and 4 female participants in Year 13 (Second Year at College). Overall 18 female participants took the survey instead of a planned 20 female participants.

When the female participants were asked if they have thought about taking any engineering related subjects, the results is very interesting. Only 3 of the subjects were chosen overall, which are Design and Technology, Graphic Design (Products) and Engineering. Nearly 60% of the female participants would like to undertake Graphic Design (Products); about 30% would like to do Engineering; and over 10% would like to do Design and Technology.

Reasons given by the participants for considering an engineering related subject include:

“I have strongly considered graphic design as a course if I didn’t do A – Levels. I find it very interesting but I struggle with computers and photoshop”
“I enjoy practical lessons”
“I chose these as I did well at GCSE (A*) and wanted to take it further. I also enjoy this subject”

 

Reasons given by the participants for not considering an engineering related subject include:

“They are too hands on and I like to write or use a computer”
“I have wanted to do engineering for a while as I enjoy maths/science and it is a good application of them”
“no I am not interested in any of those things”

Discussion of Findings

“In 2011 50% of mixed state schools had no females studying A-level physics. Females are significantly under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers and qualifications with fewer than one in 10 engineering professionals being female.”

(notgoingtouni.co.uk. (2014).)

The results of the survey questionnaire shows that many of the female participants are more likely to take non- STEM subjects as an option such as Art, Drama, Psychology and Business.

For the GCSE options taken at Year 10, the female participants chose a range of mostly non – STEM subjects like: English, Drama, Textiles, French, PE, Geography, Art, Graphics, History, Health & Social Care, ICT, Latin, All Sciences, German, Dance, and Photography.

For the post-16 options usually taken at Year 12 in schools and first year in Colleges, the female participants also chose a range of mostly non – STEM subjects like: English literature and language, Maths, Art, Early Modern History, Psychology, Philosophy and Politics, Maths, Further Maths, Art Foundation, Physics, Ancient History, Sociology, Biology, and Business.

The simple random sampling strategy used to conduct the survey questionnaire has shown that my research results backed up what other researchers have come up with regarding young women studying an engineering related subject.

For a future further research a control sample of young women already taking an engineering subject could be used as a reference point to base the results from other young women taking non-STEM subjects.

 

Conclusion of Findings

“Besides filling the critical lack of engineers in UK, I think women bring a different perspective to the table. Equal representation is especially important in engineering, as engineers design products and solve problems that affect a male and female world. Imagine the greater advances that could occur in engineering if men and women were working together more often.”

(Guardian Newspaper. (2013).)

My research into this area reinforced what I had noticed in my classrooms and what the present research into the issues confirms.

“Taking an informed guess about what motivates girls to study technical subjects, Daniels says

The Telegraph Newspaper. (2013) carried out a research which says girls respond better to engineering jobs when they can understand the impact it has on society and real people.

According to the article in the Telegraph newspaper above it concludes that young females are better attracted to engineering related subjects if they can better understand how their choice of subjects can have an impact on society and real people.

Another possible way of encouraging more young females into choosing an engineering related subject as an option is to begin the awareness of engineering and technology at a much younger age maybe in primary schools. This could be done by inviting engineering practitioners into primary schools to give talks on the subject and demonstrating real world uses of engineering.

“Universities should work with local communities, schools and teachers to talk about what engineering is. It’s important to start working with schools as early as possible – leaving it to secondary school level is actually too late.”

(The Guardian Newspaper. (2015).)

An article was published in the Guardian newspaper this year (2015) proposing eight ways to encourage more students to study engineering. The article proposed eight ways which are: lower tuition fees; reform the curriculum; talk to primary school children about what engineering is; improve career advice; more financial support; sector-wide contribution to training engineers; better coordinated initiatives; and increase industry collaborations.

I believe the article sums up the initiatives needed to be put in place to encourage more young women into studying an engineering related subject.

“The media also has an important role to play in breaking down stereotypes in the portrayal of engineers – we know this is a cultural and sociological issue in the UK, rather than a physiological problem, as there are much higher proportions of women practising as engineers in other countries.”

(The BBC. (2015).)

Another initiative is to breakdown the stereotypes in the portrayal of engineering. Engineering is often seen as a male only profession. We need portray engineering as a both a male and female profession through the use of images in publications and classroom walls.

Moving Forwards

From my results and findings, my initiative would be to get female students early at primary school age. I propose to this by encouraging local engineering companies and colleges to visit local primary school by giving a presentation on engineering. In secondary schools and colleges educate the students on the general misconceptions of engineers. During lessons, use gender neutral images and descriptions when talking about roles in engineering.

Bibliography and References

BBC. (2014). Choosing subjects for GCSE. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/parents/gcse_choosing/.

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. (2013). Professor John Perkins’ Review of Engineering Skills. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/254885/bis-13-1269-professor-john-perkins-review-of-engineering-skills.pdf.

Department for Education. (2010). Subject and course choices at ages 14 and 16 amongst young people in England: insights from behavioural economics . Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/182677/DFE-RR160.pdf. Accessed on 1 April 2015.

Free Patents Online. (2012). Career choice in engineering: the influence of peers and parents implication for counseling.. Retrieved from http://www.freepatentsonline.com/article/College-Student-Journal/302464017.html.

Guardian Newspaper. (2013). Is engineering too geeky for girls? Of course not. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2013/nov/05/engineering-female-students.

Iowa State University. (2015). Early Childhood Gender Socialization (R&C, ch. 4, Coltrane, ch. 5). Retrieved from http://www.public.iastate.edu/~f2004.soc.327/childhood%28sep27%29.pdf.

Ipsos Mori. (2015). Sampling Techniques Surveys and samples. Retrieved from https://www.ipsos-mori.com/assets/docs/techniques/rmc-sampling-techniques-surveys-and-samples.pdf.

Marked by Teachers. (2015). Outline the reasons for gender differences in subject choices. Retrieved from http://www.markedbyteachers.com/as-and-a-level/sociology/outline-the-reasons-for-gender-differences-in-subject-choices.html.

Market Research Society. (2011). Guidelines for Questionnaire Design. Retrieved from https://www.mrs.org.uk/pdf/2011-07-27%20Questionnaire%20Design%20Guidelines.pdf.

notgoingtouni.co.uk. (2014). Women in STEM. Retrieved from http://www.notgoingtouni.co.uk/advice/women-in-stem-492.

The BBC. (2015). Why engineering should be a woman’s game. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30876899.

The Guardian Newspaper. (2015). Eight ways to encourage more students to study engineering. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/jan/20/eight-ways-encourage-students-study-engineering.

The Telegraph Newspaper. (2013). Shell UK boss: My industry has a ‘girl problem’ and we’ve got to fix it. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/9947001/Shell-UK-Engineering-has-a-girl-problem-and-weve-got-to-fix-it.html.

Webb, R., Westergaard, H., Trobe, K., & Steel, L. (2008). AS Level Sociology: The Complete Course for the AQA Specification. UK: Napier Sociology.

Appendix

Results from research survey questionnaire

What year of school are you in?

Year 10 13.33%

2

Year 11

13.33%

2

Year 12 (First Year at College)

46.67%

7

Year 13 (Second Year at College)

26.67%

4

Total 15

 

Have you thought about taking any of this Engineering related subjects?

Design and Technology 16.67%

1

Product Design

0.00%

0

Graphic Design

50.00%

3

Engineering

33.33%

2

Electronics

0.00%

0

Engineering and Technology

0.00%

0

Total 6

If you answered NO to the above please give reasons

i have wanted to do engineering for a while as i enjoy maths/science and it is a good application of them

3/24/2015 2:15 PM View respondent’s answers

no i am not interested in any of those things

3/24/2015 2:02 PM View respondent’s answers

engineering doesnt really interest me however i do agree that it should be promoted more for women.

3/24/2015 1:56 PM View respondent’s answers

i didnt think that i would enjoy taking them

3/24/2015 1:45 PM View respondent’s answers

I have always been more interested in science and maths. I did art for GCSE but found the content of work really hard to deal with, so I thought that a design subject would take up too much time.

3/24/2015 12:57 PM View respondent’s answers

I never had the opportunity at school to take on many of them subjects and even if I did, I’d feel intimidated by the many male peers.

3/24/2015 12:49 PM View respondent’s answers

I am not really the type of girl to enjoy hard labour. Sound pretty selfish but I like to work in a clean and relaxed environment in which I am able to use my own ideas and not work under the influence of others.

3/16/2015 12:06 PM View respondent’s answers

I have never really thought about taking them, there wasn’t the option to take subjects that are closely related to them at GCSE.

3/16/2015 11:58 AM View respondent’s answers

Because it doesn’t interest me.

3/2/2015 8:52 PM View respondent’s answers

because I don’t want and it’s boring and stressful

3/2/2015 8:49 PM View respondent’s answers

cant sew And just didn’t think about it.

3/1/2015 6:53 PM View respondent’s answers

They are too hands on and I like to write or use a computer.

3/1/2015 6:48 PM View respondent’s answers

 

If you answered YES to the above please give reasons

I have strongly considered graphic design as a course if I didn’t do A-levels. I find it very interesting but I struggle with computers and photoshop.

3/24/2015 12:29 PM View respondent’s answers

I have always liked the creative sides of technology and graphic design is very visually creative.

3/16/2015 11:53 AM View respondent’s answers

I chose these as I did well at GCSE (A*) and wanted to take it further. I also enjoy this subject.

3/15/2015 6:45 PM View respondent’s answers

I enjoy practical lessons more

3/1/2015 6:53 PM View respondent’s answers

I enjoy graphics and think it is very interesting. I also like to create new images.

3/1/2015 6:48 PM View respondent’s answers

 

Which one College option do you prefer and why?

 

extended project – i could focus a topic on my choice and research into it. also my topic of choice (aeronautical engineering) isnt covered in any other subject

3/24/2015 2:15 PM View respondent’s answers

ancient history – i enjoy learning about Greece and Rome

3/24/2015 1:56 PM View respondent’s answers

sociology – i prefer the way it is taught and the content involved

3/24/2015 1:45 PM View respondent’s answers

maths – always enjoyed problem solving and always had a natural flair for it

3/24/2015 12:57 PM View respondent’s answers

biology because its the subject i am most interested in and would will to take it further.

3/24/2015 12:49 PM View respondent’s answers

Psychology: because my teacher is very nice and it’ very interesting subject.

3/24/2015 12:29 PM View respondent’s answers

sociology because it opens the mind to new concepts and let’s you put your own ideas on the table.

3/16/2015 12:06 PM View respondent’s answers

physics I find it the most interesting.

3/16/2015 11:58 AM View respondent’s answers

music tech as I am passionate about music and the history about it.

3/16/2015 11:53 AM View respondent’s answers

psychology interesting and enjoy

3/15/2015 6:45 PM View respondent’s answers

n/a

3/2/2015 8:52 PM View respondent’s answers

dont go to college

3/2/2015 8:49 PM View respondent’s answers

Grimsby institute

3/1/2015 6:53 PM View respondent’s answers

media studies because it is interesting. I enjoy it and I would like to use it in the future.

3/1/2015 6:48 PM View respondent’s answers

 

Which one GCSE option do you prefer and why?

 

triple science i enjoy science and want a career in engineering so triple science is beneficial for me.

3/24/2015 2:15 PM View respondent’s answers

textiles because i am very interested in fashion. i really enjoy being creative.

3/24/2015 2:02 PM View respondent’s answers

history – because learning about the past interests me and i liked the content taught

3/24/2015 1:56 PM View respondent’s answers

textiles – i found it more enjoyable

3/24/2015 1:45 PM View respondent’s answers

art – i loved painting and expressing creativity

3/24/2015 12:57 PM View respondent’s answers

art because i enjoyed it and was academic than the others.

3/24/2015 12:49 PM View respondent’s answers

art: because it is my favourite subject and its the subject I am best at.

3/24/2015 12:29 PM View respondent’s answers

I prefer business as it involves ideas which I would one day to put into practice in my own business.

3/16/2015 12:06 PM View respondent’s answers

art because the class was and we had a great teacher and you could pick what you did your project on.

3/16/2015 11:58 AM View respondent’s answers

geography as it covered a wide range of topics.

3/16/2015 11:53 AM View respondent’s answers

textiles because I enjoy it

3/2/2015 8:52 PM View respondent’s answers

RS – interesting

3/2/2015 8:49 PM View respondent’s answers

Health and social care because you actually learn something every lesson.

3/1/2015 6:53 PM View respondent’s answers

i prefer film because it is interesting and I would like to work within the film industry.

3/1/2015 6:48 PM View respondent’s answers

 

Which one College option do you prefer and why?

dance/ drama- I like performing

3/27/2015 12:41 PM View respondent’s answers

PE

3/27/2015 12:39 PM View respondent’s answers

art/History- its what I want to do

3/27/2015 12:37 PM View respondent’s answers

extended project – i could focus a topic on my choice and research into it. also my topic of choice (aeronautical engineering) isnt covered in any other subject

3/24/2015 2:15 PM View respondent’s answers

ancient history – i enjoy learning about Greece and Rome

3/24/2015 1:56 PM View respondent’s answers

sociology – i prefer the way it is taught and the content involved

3/24/2015 1:45 PM View respondent’s answers

maths – always enjoyed problem solving and always had a natural flair for it

3/24/2015 12:57 PM View respondent’s answers

biology because its the subject i am most interested in and would will to take it further.

3/24/2015 12:49 PM View respondent’s answers

Psychology: because my teacher is very nice and it’ very interesting subject.

3/24/2015 12:29 PM View respondent’s answers

sociology because it opens the mind to new concepts and let’s you put your own ideas on the table.

3/16/2015 12:06 PM View respondent’s answers

physics I find it the most interesting.

3/16/2015 11:58 AM View respondent’s answers

music tech as I am passionate about music and the history about it.

3/16/2015 11:53 AM View respondent’s answers

psychology interesting and enjoy

3/15/2015 6:45 PM View respondent’s answers

n/a

3/2/2015 8:52 PM View respondent’s answers

dont go to college

3/2/2015 8:49 PM View respondent’s answers

Grimsby institute

3/1/2015 6:53 PM View respondent’s answers

media studies because it is interesting. I enjoy it and I would like to use it in the future.

3/1/2015 6:48 PM View respondent’s answers

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s