The WISE Student Colloquium: Inspiring Women to Choose Engineering
WISE Student Colloquium - Survey Feedback
On 8 April 2014, the WISE Campaign hosted the first WISE Student Colloquium in partnership with the University of Huddersfield. 56 young women studying maths, physics and engineering subjects at universities all over the UK attended to hear from female speakers who are making a difference. The students met with 11 leading employers, made up of nine WISE corporate members, headline supporter ExxonMobil and Huddersfield-based Cummings Turbo Technologies, each showcasing exciting opportunities across a broad range of sectors.
WISE Royal Patron HRH The Princess Royal visited the Colloquium to meet with the students and employers in attendance, giving a supportive speech to inspire the students to choose a career in science and engineering after they graduate. Students were surveyed before and after the Colloquium; responses from attendees have showed that the event had a positive impact.
An increased desire to work in engineering
The WISE Student Colloquium had a positive impact on the strength of the students’ reported desire to work in engineering. Before the Colloquium, 18 out of 33 respondents (56%) strongly agreed that they wanted to work in engineering. After the event, 19 out of 24 respondents (79%) felt it was very likely they would work in engineering after graduation, with 100% of respondents indicating that they would recommend the Colloquium to other female maths, physics and engineering students.
What’s more, the event had a marked increase on the number of students naming a female engineer who had inspired them. Before the event, 25 respondents (78%) could not name a female engineer that inspired them. After the event, 17 respondents (71%) could name a female engineer that inspired them. In the additional comments all speakers were named individually by respondents as women who have inspired them, with some attendees commenting “all of the speakers!”
Career preferences and student support
Prior to the Colloquium students were surveyed regarding the factors they perceived most important in a future career, alongside their preferences for work placements.
The qualities perceived most desirable in a future career were ‘making a difference’, followed by ‘a good work-life balance/flexible working’ and ‘the opportunity to gain new skills’. One respondent commented informally that support for mothers was an important factor to a future career in engineering.
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With regards to work experience, the majority of respondents (91%) were interested in undertaking a work placement alongside their studies. Overall, a greater number of students preferred the prospect of a summer placement (22 respondents) in comparison to a year-long programme (11 respondents).
Prior to the event we also asked students what support they would find helpful. 30 respondents (94%) were interested in being involved in a network for female students of STEM subjects to connect with one another. 25 respondents (78%) indicated that they are interested in receiving mentoring from a woman who is working or researching in science, technology or engineering. In terms of connecting women directly with employers, one student commented informally that on-site tours of engineering companies would be a welcomed experience. “From my experience learning theoretically sometimes is not enough and a little exposure helps understand things better.” Following the event, 15 young women elected for their contact details to be passed onto the attending companies personally to keep updated on future graduate opportunities.
Feedback from students
To help us plan for the future WISE collected feedback and suggestions for improvement from attendees. An overwhelmingly positive response was received from the students; comments typical of the feedback include:
“I felt so inspired by the various people that gave speeches and by the people I met at the stands”
“I left the event believing in myself”
“It rejuvenated my enthusiasm in engineering“
“All the companies' reps were so nice, welcoming and really helpful”
“An excellent opportunity to meet inspirational speakers and make new friends”
“I had loads of fun, met some awesome people and learnt some useful things! Definitely going again next year if it's on”
“It was a truly fantastic event!!”
Points for improvement raised by students include an improved audio-visual system, the inclusion of hands-on workshops such as job application advice sessions, and providing extra time for speakers with more company stands and a bigger space (“make it bigger!”).
It is in accordance with the feedback we received that WISE are committed to developing the event for 2015, whilst strengthening student support through promoting networking and mentoring opportunities.
With special thanks to headline supporters ExxonMobil and the University of Huddersfield and all exhibitors and speakers who took the time to encourage and inspire women from across the UK, alongside poster competition sponsors and career mentors from Atkins and Air Products.
Keep in touch
Did you attend the WISE Student Colloquium 2014? Your feedback is important to help us go forward in our mission. Contact us with any comments.