The programme that popularised the engineering profession among female students is finishing.
“The most enjoyable properties of engineering majors are that they provide creativity and stability. I can be a part of a creative community. Being an engineer is exciting and I can represent a profession in demand.” – summarized one of the participants taking part in research into prospective female engineers of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT). It was 100 years ago that the first female engineer got her degree, since then, women have taken a leading role in this field. Though we can meet more and more female engineers, women are still underrepresented in the technical fields. These differences are apparent in different specializations. In interior design and architecture there are a growing number of women (sometimes outnumbering men), however, in engineering fields such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, structural engineering and computer science engineering, the proportion of female professionals is still small. In accordance with social expectations, the University of Pécs has made it a priority to increase the number of female students majoring in mathematics, natural science, informatics and engineering. This is why the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology established an integrated programme to raise the number and proportion of female students.
The marketing programme that ended at the beginning of the year has produced specific, realistic results. At the same time, it provided a useful tool for the Faculty. The number of female students majoring in engineering and computer science engineering has traditionally been significantly less than male students at PTE: in 2017 the rate of female students was 25%, in 2020 it was 29% at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology. This is a significant problem and can also be observed in the business world and in science where men are more strongly represented at higher levels in the hierarchy, and fewer women can reach these higher levels of business and scientific life. The problem needs an integrated approach to help women break through the glass ceiling in these fields.
The main messages of the nationwide campaign were “Woman in engineering is the new norm” and “Be represented in the field of technology with us!”. The idea behind these slogans came from female students who were already studying at university, who did not feel any discrimination and felt that it was natural for them to study engineering as a woman. This campaign was aimed at those students studying at secondary school who may have concerns about whether they will be able to start their studies in technology and whether they can achieve success as a female professional in this field. In many cases, social divisions strengthen these fears. Although many prejudices have disappeared, sometimes fragments of biases can emerge in the most unexpected situations.
A survey of the needs, issues and forms of discrimination, screening of projects and curriculum and a solid mentor and scholarship programme was completed through a communication and marketing initiative. This programme was customised with the assistance of a professional agency, although lecturers and students of the faculty also played a large part. The professional programme was based on focus group research which sought to find the deeper layers and answers to formulated questions and problems. The agency also paid attention to carry out the research within the faculty, which enabled them to embed it in the everyday life of the institution. This was also apparent in the promotional video which featured actual students of the faculty appearing in scenes shot in the faculty’s labs and workshops.
The PR campaign about female engineers drew significant press coverage that focused on the growing prestige of women who work in technical fields (the resulting film had over 170,000 views). Articles appeared in the national press and also in business and professional publications, focused on the experiences, advantages and challenges of being a female engineer in a field that is largely dominated by males. Almost 500 entries were submitted for the photo, poster and video project of “Being a female engineer, becoming a female engineer” that highlighted how exciting and attractive studying and working as a female engineer can be. International students and male students also participated in the competition.
The ambassador scholarship, which involved more than 500 students, was run in conjunction with the enrolment at the faculty. Participants could take part in the programme according to their efficiencies and affinities (photo, video, reports, event organizer tasks). This is continuing with students creating podcasts and writing articles in connection with university life and their engineering studies. Thanks to this programme, a new perspective and discussion has started regarding the engineering fields, female roles, hurdles and motivations. The blog page of https://mernoknok.hu/ retains the name of the original marketing programme but its focus has widened. It now includes pictures of everyday university life and engineering. Students of the faculty feel that the blog page is their own space, which is why they upload it with rich content weekly.