Inspiring the next generation of women in science and engineering
Some of the most valuable and rewarding career paths in the UK are in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM). Many young women, however, have never considered these careers a viable option. So there’s a clear need to provide encouragement and more visible role models of women in these fields - something we’re keen to support.
What’s the scheme about?
Our Ambassadors are volunteers who want to get young people excited about careers in science, technology, engineering, and maths. We show them real people doing these types of jobs, so that more of them might think about studying these related subjects at university. Along with talking to students, our volunteers also work with teachers in schools, consult with careers advisors, and help out with classroom activities and workshops - all to give young people practical insights into their working lives.
Around 40% of our STEM Ambassadors are women, and they play an especially important part in providing girls and young women with an example of successful women in science and engineering careers. This is especially crucial for girls aged 14 to 16, who are making important decisions about college, university and beyond.
One of our Ambassadors, Emma McDaid, an EDF Energy Area Construction Manager, talked to us about how important strong female role models are:
“As a woman in engineering and construction, I have a responsibility to say ‘these opportunities are here. Don’t miss out on the chance to do something different and interesting.’ When I became an Engineer, my parents didn’t have a clue what I’d be doing. It’s about changing the perception of what engineering is. Working in construction doesn’t necessarily mean just physical work, there is a lot of problem solving and management to do too. Volunteering is a chance to open the eyes of the students, and also their parents and teachers.”
How does it work?
An Ambassador’s session can be structured in lots of different ways. Some of our volunteers visit schools, while others consult on practice interviews with graduates. We also run workshops, which we use to give young people practical challenges. For example, recently we got a group of girls to work together to construct a pyramid wall with bricks and cement, giving them a real hands-on experience.
In another session, ambassadors and teachers supervised students as they learnt to use power tools to work with wood, or solder electrical connections to create circuits and power a lightbulb.
Is it getting results?
Jennifer Maynard, an EDF Energy Training Specialist at Hinkley Point C and regular volunteer, finds the sessions really rewarding.
“I love working with young people. They inspire me whenever I talk to them. I like having the chance to open some doors and give them as many opportunities as possible.
“Both men and women should be able to do the job they want, without there being some stigma attached due to gender. We still have biases towards male and female roles. It’s an issue in the construction industry.
“It’s brilliant that EDF Energy see the long-term value of science, technology, engineering and maths ambassadors and give us the time to go to events. We have a massive opportunity to break down those walls. There’s so much untapped potential. They’re going to be our future workforce and we need to make changes now.”