A group of female engineering students from Glasgow University are heading to Rwanda, Africa, to hand over the flame of education to girls who are interested in pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degrees. 

One of the students involved, Ellen Simmons, said: "It is usually when pupils get to about 16 that they are encouraged away from STEM subjects, both at home and by teachers in school. But in Rwanda the situation is further complicated by the fact girls are expected to stay home and take on caring duties. Perhaps not in the cities but certainly in more rural areas." 

The Dean of the Engineering Institute of Technology, Steve Mackay, has explained this phenomenon as the 'engineering valley of death' in his YouTube series, the Engineering News Network. "The concept is when the young adults get to about 12, 13, they lose interest in science, engineering, programming. You'll find there's a tremendous drop-off and then when they get to 18, 19, there's only a small fraction of the school cohort that goes into scientific careers." 

Simmons was behind setting up a project called 'FemEng' that acts as a tool of encouragement for girls to get involved with engineering, and is now taking the movement to Rwanda. She says, "We are limited in knowing exactly how girls in Rwanda are being held back from engagement in STEM and although we have been given a fair amount of insight from Rwandans we've met within Scotland, one of the main objectives of the project this year is to gain reliable knowledge of how best to increase gender equality in the field, in terms of Rwandan students."

Further afield, in Australia, the worry is that the integration of female engineers is lagging behind. So much so, Professor Nalini Joshi, a mathematician from Sydney University, delivered an impassioned speech on the topic calling for change. Speaking to the National Press Club, she said: "I want to convince you that Australia has to pursue change because the benefits go well beyond gender, beyond sexual identity or preference, race or ethnicity, and that change will make our society become more creative, abundant, inventive, and innovative."

According to ABC, Joshi went to say that only 9 percent of professors in mathematical sciences in Australia are women and laments at how in a progressive society this was allowed to happen. 

However, Joshi would be impressed to see that engineering firms in Australia are doing all they can to ensure that female engineers are brought into the company and treated on an equal level. According to a video (see below), Jetstar - that is in Newcastle in Australia -  doubled the number of females in apprenticeship programs in 2016. The video shows actual proof of girls who since a young age were interested in the aerospace industry due to their fathers being engineers before them. 

Aviation/Aerospace Australia chief executive Ken McLean said : "Incentives and quotas have helped reverse this situation. The challenge now is to ensure women are well represented in the technical aspects of aviation, such as maintenance, dispatch, and piloting." 


Source: Scotland Herald & ABC

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