Excellent role models for young people considering a career in engineering

Excellent role models for young people considering a career in engineeringA female design engineer wrote to us some weeks ago complaining that the Young Woman of the Year Award was not only sexist but it disqualified anyone with a degree. The IIE has replied…
Brigid Smith from Nortel’s European IC Design Centre wrote…
I was incensed to read the article “Who needs a degree?” by Richard Wilson.
The article expressed the viewpoint that a degree is unnecessary for a career in engineering.
Doubtless there are cases where people manage to overcome what is surely a handicap to their career, however the article used as an example two women who “beat off stiff competition to take the title of 1998 Young Woman Engineer of the Year”.
Not only is this award appallingly sexist, with its implication that women are not good enough to compete for an award if there are men in the running, but also WOMEN WITH A DEGREE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO COMPETE FOR THIS AWARD.
It is not my intention to detract from the significant achievements of the two women in the article, who doubtless have done very well for themselves.
However, a large proportion of the “stiff competition”, i.e all those with degrees, was ruled out on the starting line.
The organisers of the Young Woman of the Year Award, the Institution of Incorporated Engineers argues the case for the award.
As organisers of The Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award we consider it necessary to put the record straight following the comments made by Brigid Smith – “What is the point of a science award that excludes men and considers degrees a handicap?”.
At school level, boys are actively encouraged towards science subjects and to seek a career in the field of engineering, whilst girls are still, far too often, told that engineering is not a suitable career for them.
We are not saying that, as a nation, there is no need to encourage more men into engineering, but with only under three per cent of the total number of registered engineers (Chartered Engineers, Incorporated Engineers and Engineering Technicians) being women, one can hardly call The Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award sexist! It is positive discrimination to encourage more women into engineering.
Since the inauguration of The Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award 21 years ago, it has always been specifically for practical engineers those at Incorporated Engineer level and not the Charted Engineers. IIE does not consider a degree a handicap and contenders with a degree are not ruled out on the starting line.
The Award is for those in the Incorporated Engineer sector therefore applications are invited from young women who have obtained an Incorporated Engineer level degree, an HNC or HND.
As the largest Institution representing Incorporated Engineers and Engineering Technicians we would hardly be practising what we preach or doing justice to our existing and prospective members if we organised an Award for Chartered Engineers! (vice versa likewise!)
Previous winners and finalists of The Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award are excellent role models for young people considering a career in engineering. At IIE we will, through the Award, continue to help and encourage them to fire everyone’s enthusiasm for engineering.
Jenny Poulton from the Institute of Incorporated Engineers

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