University of Sheffields Women in Engineering receives donation

University of Sheffield's Women in Engineering receives donation

 June 04, 2019

The University of Sheffield's Women in Engineering initiative has received a fantastic contribution thanks to local engineering company AESSEAL. They have donated £100,000 to support efforts in the area of gender equality in Engineering.

Overcoming obstacles to success 

According to the University of Sheffield, currently women make up just 9% of the UK’s engineering workforce. This is an issue the University of Sheffield's Women in Engineering intiative is striving to address.

Led by bioengineer Dr Gwen Reilly, the Women in Engineering team have been able to deliver three key activities thanks to AESSEAL’s support:

  • Raising awareness of engineering and encouraging more girls to study STEM subjects in primary schools through the ‘Engineering Is’ campaign.
  • Giving an entry route into engineering degrees for girls who have not studied Physics at A-Level.
  • Supporting female academics as they progress through their careers into senior positions to ensure representation and role models at all levels of the University of Sheffield.

“We need to show young people that engineering is an accessible and exciting career and we do this by celebrating a diverse workforce," explains Dr Reilly.

“We need to be talking to kids in primary school about what engineering is and what engineers do, particularly to girls,” he says. “They make up half the population, they should make up half the engineers," says Professor Mike Hounslow, Vice-President and Head of Engineering.

Supporting women engineers through various projects

Launched in the Houses of Parliament, the ‘Engineering Is’ campaign saw resources created for schools by female engineering students from the University of Sheffield to support lessons and introduce the field to younger school children. Thanks to AESSEAL’s ongoing support this project will be continued and expanded to further raise awareness among teachers and parents of primary school aged children.

A pilot ‘Engineering Pathway’ scheme was also established to support high-quality applicants to engineering degrees who had not studied Physics at A-level. These applicants were offered a place on a 3-week Physics course run by the University of Sheffield just before the beginning of the academic year.

The successful pilot saw the involvement of thirteen students (seven fully funded by AESSEAL) and is now being rolled out more widely and included in the University of Sheffield's recruitment messages. It was also discovered that many female students on open days said they were more likely to apply to the University of Sheffield thanks to the inclusive environment promoted by the University.

The final area involved supporting the progression of female academics within engineering. After speaking to focus groups of early and mid-career academics, the University of Sheffield identified two key obstacles in women's career progression: understanding when and how to best apply for promotions, and restrictions on their ability to travel and network to increase their research profile.

After these were identified, the University of Sheffield established tailored courses for female academics and a Women Engineers Network was formed for female academics to share their experiences and advice for career progression.

Increasing number of women studying engineering

All of these projects would not be possible without the funding, or the support, given by AESSEAL, and in particular the commitment from the founder and Managing Director of AESSEAL, Chris Rea, and from Stephen Shaw, the Group Engineering Director at AESSEAL. AESSEAL kindly hosted the Women in Engineering student society at their headquarters where Chris Rea gave an inspiring talk about entering into business and Stephen Shaw was an invited speaker at the society’s annual ‘Inspiration Panel’ event promoting careers in engineering.

“Working in industry we see the need to improve the gender balance across all engineering disciplines, and as has been demonstrated by the University we know the ability is there among the next generation of students. We are proud to be doing our part to level the playing field, and open up our sector to women from whose talent we can only benefit," says Stephen.

Women engineering sheffield

“We have already seen an increase in the number of females studying engineering at Sheffield with our home undergraduate intake being at 23% female in 2018, up from 18% in 2016," adds Dr Reilly.

“We are enormously grateful that AESSEAL have chosen to support the University of Sheffield Women in Engineering programme and we look forward to continuing and building our relationship and projects with them for years to come.”

Join impressive women at The University of Sheffield

With a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion and gender equality, there are plenty of opportunities for strong candidates in a host of academic and support roles. Search and apply for exciting and challenging jobs with the University of Sheffield today. 


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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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