Few women are drawn to 'grubby' masculine subject

May 28, 2004

Countering the image of engineering as a subject that is "hands-on with grubby machines" could help attract more women to the field, according to final-year student Meghan Craig.

Meghan, 22, is about to complete a computer-aided design engineering course at the University of Central England.

Throughout the three-year course, she has been one of two women studying alongside ten times as many men.

She told The Times Higher that she was drawn to the course by her interest in design and because of her aptitude in maths and science, but she had not expected to encounter such a marked gender divide.

"I think it comes down to perception more than anything else," she said.

"Engineering still carries the image of being hands-on, with grubby machinery and technical based - and I think that does put quite a few people off.

"I wasn't aware of how big the gender split on my course would be, and having been in a male-dominated faculty for three years I've certainly had experiences of being the only female in a lecture theatre full of men.

"But that hasn't put me off and that may be because the course wasn't only engineering based.

"If a course isn't called 'mechanical engineering' and involves some other disciplines, there may be more success in marketing these sorts of courses to women."

Rather than a barrier to finding a job in engineering, Meghan said she felt that employers were now responding positively to applications from women.

"I really don't see this as a problem. Employers are welcoming women as they try to diversify the gender and cultures of their companies," she added.

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