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Parents called to take a fresh look at engineering

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As nominations open for £1m Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering there is a call for the parents of girls to look at engineering differently.


Today, as the judging panel for the QEPrize was unveiled and the call made for nominations from across the world, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation chairman, Lord Browne of Madingley, called on parents to take a fresh look at engineering, and to encourage both their sons and daughters to consider it as an exciting and rewarding profession:“From large-scale infrastructure to medical technology, engineers’ achievements transform every aspect of our daily lives. Our research shows that parents are reluctant for their daughters to enter the field of engineering, believing that other subjects offer them better opportunities.

The Queen Elizabeth Prize aims to make heroes and heroines out of the engineers who are behind the world’s greatest innovations, demonstrating that engineering can offer a rich and rewarding career to both men and women”

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is a £1m global award which celebrates the engineers responsible for a ground-breaking innovation in engineering that has been of global benefit to humanity. The judging panel comprises some of the biggest names in engineering and science from around the world, including Professor Brian Cox in the UK, Professor Calestous Juma in the USA and Narayana Murthy in India.

Recent research conducted by the QEPrize shows the engineering still suffers from an image problem – especially among the parents of girls. Despite the fact that the UK needs one million more engineers by 2020, the QEPrize survey found parents of girls aged between 5 and 18 are still inclined to encourage their daughters to study subjects other than engineering and science. 73% of mums and dads said they believed other subjects offer better career opportunities for girls.

Last year only 4228 girls applied to read engineering at university, compared to 28,020 boys, which the QEPrize survey indicates could be related to parents’ attitudes towards the discipline. Parents continue to assume their daughters are most interested in humanities, with 70% claiming that their daughters are interested in art and nearly 60% saying they are more interested in literature. In contrast, only 18% said their daughters are interested in engineering.

While 63% of parents questioned said they talk to their children about TV, only 10% said they ever discussed science and engineering. That figure falls to 3% in households where no one close to the family works in science or engineering.

“Engineering is key to helping the country maintain its competitiveness in the global marketplace,” said Lord Browne. “It is absolutely critical that girls and their parents are aware of the opportunities and breadth of experience that a career in engineering can offer.”

“We need talented, skilled and enthusiastic people to continue our proud tradition as an engineering nation, whatever their background or gender. I want to see today’s men and women become the world-class engineers of tomorrow.”

Also being launched today is an international network of young engineers – QEPrize Ambassadors – who will evangelise about engineering and inspire the next generation to create the future.

Professor Brian Cox, QEPrize judge, said: “Engineering is hardwired into us. From the earliest times, people have worked to shape the world around them and improve their lives through engineering. We need more engineers now, to carry on this legacy, and it is imperative that parents encourage their children, especially their daughters, to study STEM subjects. It is obvious to me that the symbiotic relationship between science and engineering will define the future of the global economy, and on a wider scale, the future of our civilisation, just as it defined our past.”

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said: “Britain has a proud record of being at the forefront of scientific breakthroughs and in the vanguard of design. But to maintain and advance our economic recovery, we need to open everyone’s eyes to the opportunity of working in the innovative and inventive world of engineering.

“The female engineers I’ve met have been second to none for their passion and skill and unless more is done to boost their numbers industry will miss out. This award will hopefully encourage more parents to back their daughters’ aspirations to follow a career in engineering. As a country we excel in hi-tech industries, but we need to nurture the talents of young men and women to ensure Britain has the most talented engineers – maintaining our competitive advantage and ensuring we have a fair and strong economy.”

The QEPrize was launched in 2011 and is awarded biennially. The five inaugural winners were Robert Kahn, Vint Cerf and Louis Pouzin, who were recognised for their contributions to the protocols that make up the fundamental architecture of the Internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, for inventing the World Wide Web, and Marc Andreessen, who wrote the Mosaic browser.

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