Why do we need awareness days in 2020? June 13 marked International Gin Day; June 26 apparently celebrates National Parma Violets Day. As a company that prides itself on offering value-add services, this all falls a bit flat for us.
With this saturation of dedicated days to anything and everything, truly meaningful and much-needed awareness days are not getting the attention they deserve. As recent weeks have reinforced, many of the people with whom we share the world are facing systemic hurdles and obstacles that just do not exist for others.
June 23 marks the seventh year of International Women in Engineering Day, launched by the Women’s Engineering Society to celebrate its 95th anniversary. Engineering UK estimates that just 12.37% of all engineers in the UK are women, while 21.8% of women work in the wider STEM roles. At the age of 16-18, just 25% of girls would consider a career in engineering – contrasted with 51.9% of boys (Women’s Engineering Society).
The UK has a well-documented STEM skills gap. There are simply not enough people coming through into the workforce, and it is estimated to be costing the sector £1.5bn a year in recruitment, temporary staffing, training and inflated salaries (STEM Learning).
As the saying goes, you can’t be what you can’t see. With days like INWED sharing how women are shaping the world, STEM careers become normalised and a viable option for young women and girls. By addressing the shortage of women in the industry at a grassroots level, we can hope to increase their representation as well as tackle the shortage of workers.
That said, INWED needs to be more than just a celebration of women in the industry. It’s vitally important to acknowledge that the work is not yet done to give women a level playing field, both within STEM and other industries. The issues are entrenched; for example, ill-fitting PPE, which has always been designed to a male template, can directly affect the productivity of female workers. Even in this day and age, it is practically impossible to find protective equipment that is specifically designed for women. (For further reading on this, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez is a brilliant starting point.)
At SQN, we have long advocated for authenticity in communications. We predict this will shift further, with the recent rise in athlete-empowered movements driven by their personal agendas, from Marcus Rashford to Lewis Hamilton. Consumers are taking note of brands and companies using their platforms to affect genuine change – as well as those who say all the right things, but are lacking in the implementation.
So, do we still need International Women in Engineering Day in 2020? Absolutely. But perhaps we can give International Bacon Day a miss in September.