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Women Engineers

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of women studying engineering at university level in each of the last 10 years; what employment opportunities in engineering were available on completion of their course; and if he will make a statement. (82351)

I have been asked to reply.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) report the number of women studying engineering at university level over the past 10 years in England as follows:

Number of women

1994/05

8,265

1995/06

8,385

1996/07

7,586

1997/08

7,435

1998/99

7,500

1999/2000

7,530

2000/01

7,895

2001/02

7,810

2002/03

7,352

2003/04

7,910

2004/05

7,325

This represents a small increase, from 10.6 per cent. in 1994/95 to 11.8 per cent. in 2004/05, in the proportion of women studying engineering subjects.

With respect to employment opportunities in engineering the Destinations of Leavers data collected by HESA over the period 1994/95—2003/04, show that:

12.1 per cent. of female graduates in engineering entered “work only”;

15.8 per cent. went into a “combination of work and further study”; and

14.5 per cent. went into “further study only”.

The key initiative of the Government's strategy on women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) is the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET (UKRC), funded through the Office of Science and Innovation (OSI) with £6.7 million from the science budget plus £325,000 for a dedicated undergraduate package from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES).

The Centre carries out a co-ordinated strategy, including:

championing best practice;

a recognition scheme for good SET employers;

raising the profile of women in SET;

support for women undergraduates (DfES have committed £315,000 to this project);

supporting SET returners;

setting up the GetSET database (this holds contact details for women who have agreed to promote SET topics and the role of women in SET);

co-ordinating the work of the women in SET organisations;

and pump-priming for innovative initiatives e.g. mentoring and networking.

There are also examples of positive action by employers. Where Women Want to Work.com website scrutinises the gender policies of companies against a set of attributes one of which is innovative recruitment. Some examples are:

Accenture ensures women are represented at all the graduate recruitment events and at interviews and they try and allocate female buddies at those reaching second round interviews for guidance to ensure the process is as supportive as possible;

BP run gender and diversity workshops for interviewers and assessors involved in university and other recruitment;

Shell advertise in Cosmopolitan magazine to broaden their market reach and invited university careers advisers and female students to a women's network conference and in 2005 held Working Women's Roadshows at four UK universities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps the Government are taking to encourage women to enrol on national engineering programmes at university. (84170)

The Government are committed to increasing the number of young people taking science and maths at advanced level and progressing to study science and engineering at university and beyond. ‘The Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014: Next Steps’ published in March 2006, sets out a range of measures to support this. We have invested just over £7 million in the UK resource centre for women in science, engineering and technology (SET) which aims to increase the participation of women in SET subjects and funds a number of initiatives to increase the participation of women on undergraduate engineering programmes.