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Poster: Making space for female engineering students: an evaluation of the effectiveness of a face-to-face Student Conference

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posted on 2024-01-17, 09:47 authored by Fiona Gleed, Claudia Eckert

The Engineering profession offers intellectually and financially rewarding careers, with skills in high demand globally. However, women are significantly under-represented, with female students making up 18% of first year Engineering undergraduates in UK HE1. At the OU in 2022/23, female students made up 14% of registrations for the core Engineering mathematics module at Level 1 (T194), 11% for the BEng capstone projects (T452), and < 10% on at least one specialist option (T329). These proportions are below the average for the Department of Engineering and Innovation (29%), the Faculty of STEM (37%) and the OU Undergraduate population (62%). We therefore need to understand the effectiveness of interventions and how they might better support recruitment and progression of female Engineering students.

The project is focused on one particular event, the Women in Innovation, Design and Engineering student conference held on campus in July 2023. The conference continued a series started to build community2, held annually from 2016-2019. Around 30 students participated in a programme of workshops, panels, keynotes, early career talks and lab tours, with a total attendance of over 50, including staff and external speakers.

The project will draw on standard OU information sets and quantitative data from event registration to develop questions for individual interviews with conference participants. Understanding the role of factors such as face-to-face or virtual events, identifying patterns of engagement with other group activities and mapping the most valued dimensions of community will allow more effective targeting and development of future events to support female Engineering students.

1Engineering UK, 2023. From A levels to Engineering - exploring the gender gap in Higher Education [online] accessed 08 Aug 2023. Available at

2Morris, C., et al., 2019. Leaky pipeline or untapped potential? An investigation into the motivations and aspirations of female engineering students at the Open University, eSTEeM





  • Public document

Authorship group

  • Academic - Regional/National (Staff Tutors and Student Experience Managers)
  • Academic - Central

Institutional priority category

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Students Learning Experiences


  • Gender
  • Student Co-creation
  • Student Experience

Subject discipline

  • Engineering

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