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Encouraging women engineers in Sweden

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Attracting women to study engineering and technology subjects should be a priority for any society that wishes to increase its economic growth.  Meg Munn MP was keen to learn about the Swedish experience, particularly any measures they have that produce a rise in the numbers of women studying these subjects. She recently had the opportunity to discuss the issue with Deputy President Eva Malmström Jonsson, who is herself an engineer, and Admissions Tutor Hillevi Good, both from the KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), one of Sweden’s prestigious universities.

Meg heard that the university has discovered that changing the content of a course can have a positive effect. Mechanical engineering attracts a low number of female students but adding in an element of design and reflecting this in the title of the course led to the proportion of female students increasing significantly.

Hillevi has undertaken research on the topic and found that the move to university for young women can create a lot of uncertainty. Women are more likely to be concerned about making friends than young men and so signing up for a course that has few females is a risky decision, even when this is the area of study that most interests them. This research has led the university to consider how they can provide appropriate support and guidance for the women.

Meg commented:

“The analysis undertaken by the university in Sweden to find out what is holding back female students is very useful. I was particularly interested to learn that including design in an engineering course makes it much more attractive to women.

I have put the Royal Institute of Technology in touch with Sheffield Hallam and Sheffield Universities. I am sure that they will be able to benefit from sharing information and experiences to increase women students studying engineering and technology in all institutions.”

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