Women in Tech

National Women in Science and Engineering Day

17th January 2024
Sheryl Miles

Diversity and inclusivity are vital topics that are being discussed in industries the world over – and none more so than in the STEM industries.

National Women in Science and Engineering Day signifies an important landmark in honouring the critical contributions of women, whose insights and advancements have played a key role in advancing knowledge and expertise in their respective areas.

Here, Electronic Specifier looks into the journey of women in science and engineering, shedding light on how this evolution has culminated in a national celebration. This day not only commemorates the enduring legacy of women but also the continued efforts of male allies in promoting gender diversity across these sectors.

A brief history of women

The history of women in science and engineering is a tapestry of hidden figures, unsung heroines, and passionate pioneers.

Traditionally, societal norms and educational barriers limited a women's participation in STEM industries, and, much like today, they were male dominated. Despite these challenges, several women made remarkable contributions; some notable examples are Ada Lovelace, who is recognised as the first computer programmer, and Rosalind Franklin, whose work was pivotal in understanding the DNA structure. However, at the time, their contributions were often overshadowed or uncredited.

During the 20th century, the World Wars acted as catalysts for women entering these fields, as they had to fill roles vacated by men – with Her Majesty the Queen being a keen mechanic and supporter of engineering. Post-war, there was a gradual, albeit slow, increase in the number of women pursuing science and engineering, and educational reforms and feminist movements played a crucial role in this shift – by advocating for equal opportunities and challenging gender stereotypes.

The evolution into a National Day

National Women in Science and Engineering Day emerged from the growing recognition of the need to celebrate and encourage women in these fields, and it serves several purposes:

  • Recognition of contributions: it acknowledges the significant achievements of women scientists and engineers, many of whom have historically been overlooked.
  • Inspiration for future generations: by highlighting successful women, the day aims to inspire and encourage more girls and young women to pursue careers in science and engineering.
  • Promoting diversity: the day is also about recognising the value of diversity in these fields, understanding that diverse perspectives fuel innovation and problem-solving.

Why it matters

Diversity in thought and background leads to more innovative solutions, which is absolutely essential in the extremely rapid evolving STEM fields. Moreover, addressing the gender gap in science and engineering is not just a matter of fairness, it is utilising the full potential of available talent – and who doesn’t want that! And if you needed more convincing, just think that by 2026 there might not be enough engineering talent to keep the industry moving forward – meaning the technology that society has come to rely on could potentially be in decline, or at least plateau.

Despite the progress, further challenges for women still persist, barriers including gender bias, unequal pay, and a lack of representation in senior roles are still hot topics of discussion. On the positive side, more organisations and educational institutions are now implementing various strategies to address these issues, such as mentoring programmes, gender-sensitive policies, and awareness campaigns.

The road ahead

The journey towards gender equality in science and engineering is ongoing. National Women in Science and Engineering Day is not only a celebration; it is also a reminder of the work that remains to be done. It is a call to action for everyone involved in these fields to contribute towards a more inclusive and diverse future.

By acknowledging the contributions of women, supporting aspiring female engineers, and advocating for diversity, together we can help shape a more inclusive and innovative future in science and engineering so we can concentrate on solving complex issues in a creative and diverse ways – because a job done well is a job done well, no matter who you are, where you are from, or how you best approach your work.

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