• Dr Rebecca Broadbent is one of a handful of female engineers chosen for careers project
• In 2020 just 27% of science, technology, engineering and maths workforce were women
• “Mixed perceptions of engineering can cause career limiting choices at an early age” says Dr Broadbent
An Aston University lecturer is going back to school to encourage young children, especially girls, to consider science and technology careers.
Dr Rebecca Broadbent is a teaching fellow and programme director for the Engineering and Applied Science Foundation Programme at Aston University.
She is one of handful of female engineers who have been trained to deliver sessions to primary-school children during school hours.
In the UK, it was reported that in 2020 just 27% of the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) workforce were women.
This is despite an estimated shortage of 173,000 workers in the sector costing the economy £1.5bn per annum, according to the organisation STEMlearning.
Watch Dr Broadbent talk about the project on Aston Originals
Dr Broadbent was trained via a project called the STEMazing Inspiration Academy, which supports women in STEM to be visible role models and inspire young people through fun, interactive online STEM sessions.
The participants take part in training and workshops to build their public engagement skills and confidence on camera. They then then deliver a six-week programme of live, online STEM sessions designed to engage children aged seven to nine years old.
Dr Broadbent said: “There is a real mix of perceptions about what an engineer does and research shows as a result children are making career limiting choices at a really young age.
“However, it’s not necessarily just about gender perception but about the perception of what engineering is and what engineers do.
“A lot of young girls are put off engineering – in 2021 it was reported that just 16.5% of the UK workforce in engineering is female - however, we need to have a really diverse workforce.”
At Aston University Dr Broadbent teaches on the Engineering and Applied Science Foundation Programme which provides a route into engineering by teaching the skills needed to be a professional engineer or applied scientist. She is also involved in engineering education research.
She is running virtual STEM sessions for seven to nine-year-olds at St Giles Academy, Lincoln and a session at Oakington Manor Primary School, Wembley.
She added: “Following the STEMazing Inspiration Academy I would like to continue developing as an educator, as well as continuing with my engineering education research to help us better understand engineering education from early years onwards.
“Children as young as five or six are making decisions about which careers are ‘for them’ and which are not. For me it’s fascinating to see what engineering achieves and how these achievements shape our world, what I would really like is for future generations to be able to make informed decisions about their potential roles in these incredible engineering careers.”
In 2022 Aston University’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences received Athena Swan gold – the highest accolade for higher education equality becoming just the second UK university to have an engineering department awarded the title.
- Notes to editors
The is an estimated shortage of 173,000 workers in the STEM sector, costing the economy £1.5bn per annum (source: STEM Learning). https://www.theiet.org/media/press-releases/press-releases-2022/press-releases-2022-october-december/7-december-2022-government-urged-to-tackle-15bn-engineering-skills-shortage-through-primary-and-secondary-education-drive/
27% figure for women in STEM - https://www.britishscienceassociation.org/News/report-on-equity-in-stem-workforce-published
16.5% figure for women in engineering - https://www.engineeringuk.com/research-policy/diversity-in-engineering/women-in-engineering/
STEMazing website - https://www.stemazing.co.uk/inspiration-academy
About Aston University
For over a century, Aston University’s enduring purpose has been to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation, by enabling our students to succeed in work and life, and by supporting our communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally.
Aston University’s history has been intertwined with the history of Birmingham, a remarkable city that once was the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing powerhouse of the world.
Born out of the First Industrial Revolution, Aston University has a proud and distinct heritage dating back to our formation as the School of Metallurgy in 1875, the first UK College of Technology in 1951, gaining university status by Royal Charter in 1966, and becoming The Guardian University of the Year in 2020.
Building on our outstanding past, we are now defining our place and role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and beyond) within a rapidly changing world.
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