Only 9% of the engineering workforce are currently women. With a predicted increase in skills shortages as UK industry continues to develop, but with a lack of available talent, how could we attract more girls to consider careers in engineering, while challenging outdated gender stereotypes?
We uncovered the fact that many parents are the gatekeepers to their children’s futures – and therefore carry the most influence. Half of parents think engineering is for boys and only 7% think that engineering could appeal to their daughters. Interestingly, 40% of parents also said they did not know enough about engineering to advise their children and had outdated perceptions that engineers’ jobs only involved hard hats, power tools and were physically demanding.
We decided to build on that insight by talking to parents about whether they were asked tricky STEM questions by their children that they felt they couldn’t answer – and when the resounding yes result emerged, we launched a PR and social campaign under the IET’s ‘Engineer A Better World’ campaign umbrella to help educate them more about STEM, and the diverse and creative careers in engineering.
We worked in association with Mumsnet to host a Twitter Party with the IET’s expert engineers who solved parents’ questions and created a buzz around the fact that this was a feeling many could relate to.
We secured 108 pieces of media coverage in total, including the Press Association, BBC Radio 5 Live, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Independent, and Have I Got News for You. The results of the Mumsnet Twitter Party were very powerful, with more than half a million (565,898) people reached, largely within the core target audience of parents, 1160 mentions of the hashtag, 416 user contributions, and 533 mentions of @TheIET, all within just one hour. There were 6.12 million views of the conversation – twice as many as usual for Mumsnet.
One more thing
One the funniest questions that parents were asked by kids was ‘why don’t fish have eyebrows?’ – this became The Times’ headline and got picked up by Have I Got News For You.