“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, creativity, or curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it and make it the life you want to live.”

Anyone could have said this opening line, but the fact that Mae Carol Jemison said it gives it a bit more weight. She’s a woman, but also an engineer and for whatever else she has done in her life, she will always be remembered for living this quote to the max and literally reaching for the stars. She was the first African American woman in space, serving on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. And before that she was a doctor. Talk about a life well-lived – and no doubt with more to come.

There are, of course, countless women who can be quoted. Inspirational people who have helped change the world and quite rightly they are celebrated today as they were so rarely in years gone by.

Aim high

Mae Jemison is saying that anyone can and should aim high and that is exactly what we try to encourage here at TTE. International Women’s Day (IWD) is another opportunity to spur more women to consider a career in engineering or construction, because firstly it’s not just a male preserve and secondly there is so much opportunity – whatever your gender.

Inspiring young women who come to TTE is hugely important to us but we don’t limit it to March 8th. We want all our apprentices, male or female, to be able to envision a career in engineering and construction and this desire is particularly true for women, given there are fewer who take this path. Inspiring everyone who walks through our doors to work in these sectors is the way for them to use the skills that we teach. And one way we can do that is point to role models of people who have achieved so much in their chosen fields.

Unlike in the 18 th , 19 th and 20 th centuries, in the 21 st century it’s easy to magnificent women. Their accomplishments are universally acknowledged, rewarded and awarded. Their extraordinary lives and no longer hidden. There are organisations to champion the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to inspire future generations.

For example, there’s The Women’s Engineering Society, established in 1919 which has a mission to support women in engineering to fulfil their potential and support the industry to be more inclusive. And there’s WISE or Women in Science and Engineering which has a similar remit namely to highlight the career opportunities for girls and women in science and engineering professions.

Insatiable demand

It appears their work and that of many others in many countries across the world is beginning to pay off. Compare these two articles from the Guardian published seven years apart.

In 2013: “In Britain, as across the world, there is an insatiable demand for engineers…But despite engineers being renowned for their innovation, ingenuity and problem-solving skills, the profession still has to overcome its long-standing challenge of attracting and retaining female engineers… Analysis published this month found that just 8% of professional engineers are female, compared to 51% of the UK population…”

In 2020: “The number of women working in core STEM jobs in the UK has, for the first time, topped 1 million…This means women now make up 24% of the STEM workforce… As part of this increase, the number of women working in engineering has doubled to 50,000 over the past decade – 10% of the total.”

The article also cites a study by Microsoft of 11,500 girls and women across 12 countries that discovered that girls were much more likely to consider a career in STEM if they had a visible role model.

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

Role models can drive and motivate us by the strength of their deeds and personality. They can shape who we become, through our wish to achieve similar goals and status. One such candidate is Jess Wade, a British physicist and gender equality campaigner, who at the age of just 35 has received several awards for contributions to science, science communication, diversity, and inclusion.

Not only is she herself a role model, but she has also made it her mission to create Wikipedia articles about notable women in STEM and to date she has written over 2,100. If work like this helps to move the needle and build on that 2% rise in female engineers over seven years then it is important work.

TTE is well placed to meet you ambition and help you become the best you can be and we do that every day of the year, not just on International Women’s Day. So be like Mae Jemison, dream big, shoot for the moon.

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