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Topic Title: Young Woman Engineer of the Year award - end the gender discrimination
Topic Summary: Starting a campaign to abolish Young Woman Engineer of the Year or replace it with a non-discriminatory equivalent
Created On: 01 June 2012 12:05 AM
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 17 June 2012 12:03 PM
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westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Originally posted by: hamishbell
While half the population is made up of women and the engineering profession is not, I believe one of the purposes of Institutions should be to encourage a greater take up of the profession by women.

So really what we are saying is that because the world population is approximately 50% male and 50% female we should have a more balanced gender in engineering. What kind of professional well thought out justification is that?
This is discrimination and should not be downplayed for linguistic reasons. Let's look at the results, not contemplate the means. Certainly have a mens' award - when there are enough women engineers!

Let us instead encourage all young people to take up engineering and encourage them equally and try to end up with the best engineers rather than just trying to make up the numbers.

Regards.
 17 June 2012 01:45 PM
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hamishbell

Posts: 288
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Westonpa
I wonder what you think you've added to the discussion?
Regards
Hamish

-------------------------
Hamish V Bell, BSc, CEng, FIET, FCQI, CQP
2013 - 2016 Elected Council Member
2007 - 2010, Vice President and Trustee
 18 June 2012 10:47 AM
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westonpa

Posts: 1771
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Originally posted by: hamishbell
Westonpa
I wonder what you think you've added to the discussion?
Regards
Hamish

As was suggested in the post about the 'Black Police Officers Association' that was put in place to deal with particular issues and it was shown there were going to be real benefits for having more ethnic police officers and also the case for more male teachers is well documented. So I understand those cases for positive discrimination but in this case I am not seeing any real benefits to the world of engineering over and above what already exists. Let's see a professional discussion on why we think the gender should be better balanced and what benefits we think that will bring to the world of engineering. If people wish to promote an award which is women only and not have a compromise until the gender is better balanced then at least let us have a better reason that 'half the worlds population is made up of women'.

I am of the opinion there should also be a young man engineer of the year award because I think that is reasonable and does not lessen the young woman engineer of the year award. Why should we not celebrate the achievements of young male engineers also? If we wish to treat both genders as equal then that starts with the awards which are available.

Regards.
 18 June 2012 10:49 AM
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rhysphillips

Posts: 71
Joined: 01 April 2010

Interesting timing, but an email from Richard Wiseman this morning brought to light some interesting research showing that female role models can turn girls away from science:

http://bps-research-digest.blo...e-models-could-do.html
 18 June 2012 02:11 PM
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rhysphillips

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Some comments from women who have replied to the email pointing out the above article:

"I went into science because I wanted to be an astronaut, just like Michael Foale."

"I had a phenomenal biology teacher at A-level - a man whose enthusiasm for his subject was contagious. It was his dedication and willingness to invest in us above and beyond his teaching requirements that secured my love of the subject and subsequent career choice. His gender made absolutely no difference whatsoever."

This isn't really directly on the subject of whether the awards should exist but does relate to whether female engineers make better role models for younger girls.

In fact at the place I work, we take part in Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) - they bring round groups of school girls, sometimes accompanied by their parents and I (not a girl in case anyone was wondering!) am one of the engineers on hand to demonstrate some of the technology we have on site. During their time on site they probably interact with roughly a 50/50 split of males to females.
 18 June 2012 10:03 PM
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z315870

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rhysphillips and westonpa thanks for your comments - I am particularly impressed by the anecdotal evidence there and it ties in well with the opinions of my female colleagues - they aren't in the industry because they feel they have a point to prove about being female, they're there because they like the subject, and as has been pointed out, there's no reason a male can't inspire that interest in female students, so this award really should be open to all, if it's about inspiring diverse people to come into the industry.

We need to appeal to all potential engineers because we need more engineers, and showing our diverse credentials gives us a better chance of getting them in.

It's a good thing I was pretty motivated to be an engineer; when the WISE bus came round to my school (which it did, probably around '98) I might well have been put off the industry by the simple implication that they were only interested in recruiting women to make up some kind of quota.

By focusing on one particular group in this way you actually alienate the rest of the potential candidates because you're saying that they're not worthy of your attention. We shouldn't take it for granted that all male students are interested in engineering or science - many of them aren't!

Instead of "WISE" it should be some other catchy acronym targeted at all students. We can't afford to go to the expense of putting together these fantastic showcases of our industry and then only targeting half the potential incoming employees! it's madness!

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 18 June 2012 10:05 PM
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z315870

Posts: 65
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or to put it another way...

if I was running a lemonade stall in the middle of town and I only sold lemonade to people wearing blue clothing, you'd think it a bit odd, wouldn't you? Do you think I'd stay in business long?

Does it really matter if I have a perception that blue-clothed people are thirstier than everyone else - am I on a thirst-quenching mission or do I want to sell lemonade?

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 19 June 2012 05:22 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Originally posted by: z315870
We can't afford to go to the expense of putting together these fantastic showcases of our industry and then only targeting half the potential incoming employees! it's madness!

I don't think anyone is suggesting that. What is being said is that half the target audience needs (for a period of time) more work and a different approach than the other half. Following your marketing analogy, advertisers do this all the time, and with good reason. If you want to attract a complete demographic, and you are missing out one sector, you target that sector specifically. Doesn't mean you stop advertising to all as well.

The amount actually spent on these activities is tiny, and the amount spent on the awards even more so. (I don't think any of the winners plan to retire on the proceeds!) Now, if you can show research that this investment is ineffective, that's a good argument, however it may equally turn out to be an argument for increasing funding to counter the ineffectiveness! But saying "she's got an award, I want one too" could be considered as not focussing on the rather bigger problems facing the profession at the moment...

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 19 June 2012 05:45 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Originally posted by: westonpa
what benefits do you think women will bring to the world of engineering?

My answer to this would be: the same as left handed, or ginger, or Welsh, or dog-loving people bring to engineering - if they're good engineers I don't care who they are! We are really short of excellent engineers coming through the educational system, and we can't afford to turn off any potential sources.

Another little thought (I've probably told this before on these forums). I used to run an after-school engineering club for 9 - 13 year olds. In the primary school age group we had a nearly 50-50 boy-girl mix. When they moved up to secondary school every single girl dropped out. It didn't take much research to find out why: they were coming under huge peer pressure from the other girls to behave in a particular way, and be interested in particular things, whether they wanted to or not; in other words they were told by their friends "girls don't do engineering". You may say, why didn't this happen at primary school. The only thing I can suggest is that because my activities were heavily supported by the (totally female) teaching staff at the school it was just seen as a fun thing to do.

I find the whole business terribly sad and a waste.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 19 June 2012 07:53 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: amillar
My answer to this would be: the same as left handed, or ginger, or Welsh, or dog-loving people bring to engineering - if they're good engineers I don't care who they are! We are really short of excellent engineers coming through the educational system, and we can't afford to turn off any potential sources.

I hardly think having one award for each gender is going to turn off any potential sources.

Regards.
 19 June 2012 09:05 PM
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z315870

Posts: 65
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Originally posted by: amillar
It didn't take much research to find out why: they were coming under huge peer pressure from the other girls to behave in a particular way, and be interested in particular things, whether they wanted to or not; in other words they were told by their friends "girls don't do engineering".


Don't you think this, and other social pressures,are perhaps the dominant effects in play? How does Young Women Engineer address this? It's tinkering at the edges of a problem that is fundamentally not within our control.

OK, I don't have statistics to back that up, I'm working on qualitative analysis since quantitative would be more or less impossible. But my argument is really that YWE is a negative thing - that it suggests women are subject to preferential treatment in the industry, which is probably not what enthusiastic young women want to see.

Remember, we're talking about a generation that only knows about gender discrimination when you tell them that there is a problem. They don't expect to be discriminated against because they've grown up under the protection of laws that prevent it. By highlighting gender as an issue you're actually creating a problem where (for this generation) none actually existed.

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 21 June 2012 12:15 PM
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amillar

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Originally posted by: westonpa
I hardly think having one award for each gender is going to turn off any potential sources.

I agree, I just don't see the specifcally "male" award as being particularly useful.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 21 June 2012 12:30 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Originally posted by: z315870
Remember, we're talking about a generation that only knows about gender discrimination when you tell them that there is a problem. They don't expect to be discriminated against because they've grown up under the protection of laws that prevent it. By highlighting gender as an issue you're actually creating a problem where (for this generation) none actually existed.


That's where we disagree, and at the moment all the research I've seen also disagrees with you: it suggests that girls still tend to believe engineering is a "male" profession, and the university admission figures also back this up. We are not talking about overt discrimination, rather about an attitude. It's all tinkering if you like, but you can only do what you can do and every little helps. These attitudes are certainly not outside our control, attitudes are guided by those around you, by introducing new people into an environment you can certainly change attitudes. It's just a long slow process.

Role models may not have worked for you, but they do work for many others, it's one of the most commonly cited reasons for anyone to enter any profession. Whether we are using the YWE winners (or any other engineers) effectively as role models is, perhaps, a better question.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 21 June 2012 01:36 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: amillar
Originally posted by: westonpa
I hardly think having one award for each gender is going to turn off any potential sources.

I agree, I just don't see the specifcally "male" award as being particularly useful.

Do you have evidence to show that it would not 'turn on' potential engineering sources from the young male population?

Regards.
 21 June 2012 01:46 PM
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StewartTaylor

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Perhaps there's another aspect of these awards that gets missed in all the talk of role models.

If you really want to impress people with what an engineer can achieve, the youngsters aren't really the people to do it. Finding professionally mature engineers who have really achieved something big sounds to me to be a lot more promising. Yes, the 'young engineer' is perhaps closer to where the potential student is now, but all that says is 'it's not very far away'. What it doesn't say (with all due respect to the young engineers who undoubtedly have huge potential) is "Look! This is what you can achieve as an engineer!", which I think must have more potential to inspire enthusiam.

-------------------------
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
 21 June 2012 02:23 PM
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amillar

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Originally posted by: westonpa
Do you have evidence to show that it would not 'turn on' potential engineering sources from the young male population?

Might do. Seems pretty unlikely though. "Hello, I'm the Male Engineer of the Year" "Errr...aren't most engineers male?"

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 21 June 2012 02:46 PM
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amillar

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Originally posted by: StewartTaylor
If you really want to impress people with what an engineer can achieve, the youngsters aren't really the people to do it. Finding professionally mature engineers who have really achieved something big sounds to me to be a lot more promising. Yes, the 'young engineer' is perhaps closer to where the potential student is now, but all that says is 'it's not very far away'. What it doesn't say (with all due respect to the young engineers who undoubtedly have huge potential) is "Look! This is what you can achieve as an engineer!", which I think must have more potential to inspire enthusiam.


You would have thought so, but you need to realise quite how much teenagers see adults (particularly middle aged and older adults) as a completely different species. What mature engineers can achieve doesn't seem to be so relevent to them. Whereas someone in their early 20s doing something exciting is close enough to be a realistic target. I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to watch teenagers and students interact with engineers of all age ranges, and sadly had to agree that old b******s like me just cannot inspire the "I could be like that" feeling in the same way. Of course, we can help in other ways, particularly by working with young people so that they realise what they can achieve, which is why, once again, the YWE is just one of many techniques used to inspire and encourage. But as immediate role models you do seem to need younger people.

Last week I was pleased to act as a chair of assessors on the Go4SET programme, where 13-14 years olds work with a company mentor on an engineering project. The mentor for the team we supported was a very recent graduate. Hopefuly they got something out our assessment panel's review of their project, but you could clearly see that the real interaction was with Paul who was young enough that they could work comfortably with them, but had seen enough already to share the excitement and possibilities.

Or to look at it another way, if you're a teenager how would you rather imagine yourself growing up: 25 and dynamic or 55 balding and corporate

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 21 June 2012 03:20 PM
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amillar

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Should have added (and just this afternoon seen a lovely example) that mature and highly experienced engineers make fantastic mentors for young people: particularly in getting over ideas of integrity, team working, understanding the bigger picture etc etc. I'd suggest in general that this works better as a longer term relationship to get over the "awe" factor.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 21 June 2012 04:14 PM
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StewartTaylor

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Andy,

Point taken. But I would say that even though I'm well past 55 and losing my hair I don't feel corporate (in either sense of the term)!

Seriously though 'professsionally mature' didn't mean as old as us, more like late 30s or so. Actually, although it's not billed as engineering the Thomas Heatherwick: Making exhibition at the V&A had some pretty neat engineering on show. He's a 'designer' but a lot of good engineering by lots of people goes into the stuff they make. He has a global reputation, he's 42 and doesn't look even slightly corporate or stuffy. Can't we find some more?

-------------------------
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
 21 June 2012 04:39 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: amillar
Might do. Seems pretty unlikely though. "Hello, I'm the Male Engineer of the Year" "Errr...aren't most engineers male?"

To quote "Awards such as this recognise the hard work and dedication shown by young engineers and can hopefully be an inspiration to others. This generation of young engineers will be leading the industry in 20 years time in an ever more demanding and sustainability conscious environment."
That's from the 'Young Structural Engineer of the Year Award 2011' runner up....a male. Do you think he entered so that if he won he could say ""Hello, I'm the Male Engineer of the Year" "Errr...aren't most engineers male?"

Interestingly it was won by a woman who can claim to have won the award fairly and squarely rather than having to have her own category to make it 'easier' for her to win.

Then we have ECS student Andrew Cowan was named Young Engineer of the Year at the British Science Association's " "I'm extremely honoured and proud to be awarded such a prestigious title. The standard of entries was so high which made the finals incredibly tense at times. I'm now really looking forward to representing engineering for young people and I hope my project inspires lots of other people to do the same and pursue a career in engineering."

As Young Engineer of the Year Andrew will now play a role as an Ambassador for Engineering. "My key role will be to encourage young people into studying and taking up a career in engineering," he said. "I'm looking forward to being able to talk at events throughout the year to promote engineering."

Then we have the UK government offering an award http://www.theengineer.co.uk/p...ineers/1010934.article and again open to both genders.

Seems these awards mean something to those young male engineers.

Regards.
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