MOST of us will be aware of the phrase that for the holder, their perception is their reality, a statement well worth remembering no matter how much we disagree with that view if we want to find a path to consensus rather than conflict.

Sunday, June 23, is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), a date I could have told you from memory, as unusually every year the date stays the same, and so only the day of the week it lands on changes.

It’s a date that gets good attention in our industry – although maybe not as much as it could – but it enjoys enthusiastic recognition and support. My perception is that it’s the only event of note for that day, but on checking the reality is that it shares it with a variety of events that vary from the equally worthy Public Service Day to the somewhat leftfield World Typewriter Day.

The desecration of typewriters to turn the keys into cufflinks appears to be pantomime villain for that event. Who knew.

INWED is not yet even a teenager of an event, celebrating its eleventh birthday after its formation in the UK by the Women’s Engineering Society, and becoming an internationally recognised day following its receipt of Unesco patronage in 2017.

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It exists to celebrate and showcase the impact of the outstanding work carried out by women engineers around the world, acting as a source of encouragement, support and inspiration to all.

A recurring theme that commentors for the day ask each year is why do we need an INWED day? The temptation to ask why we even need to answer that question is the unhelpful path to conflict, so let’s breathe out and have a look at where we are, and especially where we want to be.

Just last month, EngineeringUK continued its excellent commitment to mapping the latest figures for those working in engineering and technology roles, with a focus especially on women within such positions.

In 2021, it reported an encouraging increase over the previous decade of around 6% of women in these roles to an overall 16.5%, and while I’d always recommend someone checks my maths, I reckon that by the end of this century, if we maintain that rate, we might reach the heady heights of around 26% of women in these roles. Or painfully just halfway towards our real target.

The May 2024 update, however, states that the percentage of women working in engineering and technology occupations dropped by 0.8% since 2022, a loss of 38,000 women to our industry.

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This is despite the overall proportion of people working in engineering and technology occupations within the UK workforce remaining consistent at 19.2%, so not that the overall industry is shrinking – just the proportion of women.

It underlines that events like INWED are very much needed and, if anything, the scale and reach of encouragement, support and inspiration needs to increase.

Just over three weeks ago, our community of Scottish Engineering had the chance to celebrate individuals and companies that have demonstrated excellence at our annual awards dinner, and with INWED approaching it gives a very valid reason to highlight one of those individuals.

Our graduate apprentice of the year was awarded to Jennifer Mackay, the lead outfit engineer working at Ferguson Marine, a role she holds while also enrolled as third year engineering design and manufacture graduate apprentice.

Jennifer was promoted to her role last year following recognition for her excellent organisational and technical abilities, and now leads a team of five engineers with a range of experience from apprentice level to those with over 30 years of ship design experience.

Previously recognised with a Queen's Silver Medal from the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights, her company remarked on her resilience, determination and ability to find solutions, while maintaining a positive mindset at all times.

If that wasn’t enough, Jennifer also performs an ambassadorial role for Ferguson promoting STEM to young aspiring engineers.

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If, having read this, you have been inspired by Jennifer’s achievements, or shocked by the loss of 38,000 UK women in engineering and technology, you have just supported International Women in Engineering Day.

Thank you for that – and maybe ask yourself the question: what are you going to do next to support and maintain an improvement?

Paul Sheerin is chief executive of Scottish Engineering