Cyber sexism putting girls off engineering

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Online images still portray engineering as a job for the boys, leading to girls being put off potentially well-paid and exciting careers, according to new research from EngineeringUK.

The study, released to mark the start of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2015 (2-6 November), has found a host of organisations, including universities, media outlets and search engines are all guilty of reinforcing engineering stereotypes through their choice of images online.

The analysis of engineering-related imagery from across more than 70 popular websites found that four in ten (42 percent) ‘people pictures’ online related to engineering depict women. Stock image sites and search engines are the worst culprits, majorly lagging behind other sites on gender balance. Image searches for the term “engineer’ found just 26 percent of search engine results featured women and 25 percent of stock images contained female engineers (compared to 85 percent and 81 percent of images featuring men).

Supporting research among 11-16 year olds has also revealed just how influential online imagery can be. Almost a third (29 percent) of all those surveyed believe images used to represent engineering are not relevant to them, while 28 percent of girls say they are too male orientated. Almost one in ten (7 percent) girls went so far as to say that images they’ve seen online have put them off a career in engineering.

Chief Executive of Engineering UK, Paul Jackson, commented on the findings: “If a picture is worth a thousand words, it is extremely worrying that cyber sexism is rife when it comes to the depiction of engineers on websites used by young people.

“Engineers shape the world we live in and are behind many of the amazing everyday things we take for granted. Engineering isn’t just about men in hard hats,” Jackson concluded.

 

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