According to data from the latest report by CRUE (the Conference of Spanish University Rectors), 264,664 students were accepted to Spanish universities for the academic year 2015-2016, of whom 53.8% were women. This figure is no surprise, as women have represented over half of all Spanish university students for more than 20 years. But if we examine these numbers in a little more detail, there are still some that ought to give us pause.
In four of the five branches into which university studies are divided – Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences, Sciences and Health Sciences – women are in the majority. However, in Engineering and Architecture, the percentage of women drops markedly. Women make up less than 23% of the total number of students accepted to this fifth branch. Even this number can be misleading, however, as there are some courses, such as Architecture, in which the percentages are more balanced.
Therefore, there are other university courses in which the imbalance is so stark as to demand our attention. This is the case with Computer Systems Engineering, in which nearly 90% of incoming students are men, and Electrical Engineering, in which this figure is over 85%.
Today, 23 June, is International Women in Engineering Day, and I do not wish to let this day go by without once again affirming my commitment and that of Enagás to the promotion and advancement of female representation in these industries. On this blog, I have written about this topic on various occasions, as I believe it to be a very substantial issue in our society.
We should ask ourselves what we can do to avoid losing even one potential female engineer, to prevent even one 16 or 17-year-old girl with talent and enthusiasm for this calling from turning away.
In terms of the labour market, this is one of the last frontiers we must break to achieve full equality. For companies in the industry, it is both a challenge and an opportunity. Diversity is not just an ethical value, but an economic one. We need more female engineers because they will help us move forward both as a company and a country.
It is important that both public entities and universities support initiatives to move forward in this area. Companies like ours also have a share of the responsibility. At Enagás, we built the principles of non-discrimination and equality of opportunity into our human resource management many years ago.
However, the most important role is played by each of us in our own backyard, sending any messages we can to continue changing our culture for the better. A good example is this excellent article, published almost precisely one year ago, on women’s leadership in the technological revolution in Spain.
Scientific pioneers like Marie Curie are leading lights whose ranks, though their place in history is secure, must always be replenished with people from the modern day. There were pioneers who opened the way for others, but there are also dozens of incredible engineers, scientists and researchers all around us today, to whom young people likely feel more connected. This article offers us a few tips in this department, naming a handful of amazing entrepreneurs that lead cutting-edge technology companies in our country such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Siemens, IBM and Microsoft.
I’m sure that we all have even more examples near to hand. Brave, bold, capable and efficient women. Top-of-the-line professionals who should be examples to all those young people who, in these June days of exams and university admissions tests, are thinking about what they want for their futures. Not even one career lost. Not even one talent left untapped. This is the goal. It is of the greatest importance to all these girls, but also to all of us a society.