Dr Sally Day and Dr Elpida Makrygianni presented the UCL Pre-19 Engineering Engagement Strategy and its impact at the 2016 EU Gender Summit, highlighting the 50:50 gender ratio, context-based challenges and early engagement with young people which have led to excellent outcomes.
They had been invited to participate in the annual EU Parliament Gender Summit which brings together researchers, policy makers and professionals from across society and the world (since the summit’s remit has been expanded beyond Europe). The aim is to make gender equality in research and innovation the norm, and to make this a metric for assessment. The UCL Engineering strategy was presented by the two researchers as part of the session on improving participation, retention, and leadership of women in STEM fields.
They described key elements of engagement work at UCL Engineering, including working with students from an early age, and insisting on 50:50 gender ratios for every activity. Programmes and activities are designed to provide an authentic learning experience of solving real-world challenges based on cutting edge research occurring in UCL labs with a strong social context or environmental mission. They show young people what engineers actually do while developing their problem-solving skills, knowledge and self-confidence while also tapping into their empathy, fairness and tolerance when working in diverse groups and teams.
The simple 50:50 requirement promotes inclusion both for students participating and during the design of programmes. Activities are offered for a wide range of abilities and interests with a selection of partner organisations, including redesigning wheelchairs with the James Dyson foundation summer school, materials masterclasses and immersive science theatre. (for more, see the UCL Engineering Engagement Brochure )
The strategy sends a clear, strong, consistent message in the classroom, at home and to society to show young people real choice, not just in engineering but for all subjects.
These points have been implemented in 134 programmes, events and activities with 529 schools in London and the UK, connecting over 6,000 young people with 623 staff and students designing and delivering our programmes & activities. As a result, there has been a 62% increase of female participants in our Pre-19 Engineering Engagement programmes. Following completion, 93% of female participants report a positive view of engineering, and 69% of aged 17-19 years old apply to study engineering at UK universities or for apprenticeships.
Dr Elpida Makrygianni, Pre-19 Engineering Education Developer and Coordinator (UCL Engineering), who led the development of the strategy, said:
“By demanding 50:50 across all our Pre-19 engineering engagement programmes at the Faculty, we have been able to create a step change in the representation of female students, and others excluded from engineering due to social factors. 50:50 is our commitment to diversity in every sense: inclusiveness as well as the promotion of empathy, fairness and tolerance in young audiences. We are delighted to be sharing our experiences and helping shape EU and international policy on gender diversity.”
Dr Sally Day (UCL Electronic & Electronic Engineering), who has been a long-term advocate for and leader of engineering outreach activities, said:
“An important aspect is the conversations that we have started in schools about the importance and benefit of diversity. We have prompted staff and students to think about who can do engineering, encouraging participation from those who might not have considered it as well as those who already know it is for them. I hope that we have opened eyes to the ways that engineering can benefit society, the environment and, most important, people from all over the world. The other hidden importance of the work has been the networks formed throughout the Engineering Faculty. In developing activities for school students we have found areas to collaborate and to learn from each other’s work that go far beyond the outreach projects themselves.”
More information about UCL Engineering Pre-19 Engagement can be found on the website here.