HC Deb 06 May 1969 vol 783 cc264-6
Q3. Mr. Lubbock

asked the Prime Minister how many women chartered engineers are employed by Government Departments and if he will seek the advice of the Central Advisory Council for Science and Technology on ways of increasing the number of women studying for engineering qualifications.

The Prime Minister

Of the small number of women chartered engineers, two are known to be employed in Government Departments and a further two are expected to qualify shortly. All the Departments concerned as well as the Central Advisory Council for Science and Technology are aware of the need to increase the number of women studying for engineering qualifications.

Mr. Lubbock

Are not these figures which the Prime Minister has quoted very depressing, particularly since this is "Women in Engineering Year"? Will the Prime Minister ask his right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Minister of Technology to convene a conference to discuss the position of women in engineering and how the numbers might be increased? Will he see that invitations are sent to prominent women engineers in the United States and the Soviet Union, where the number of women qualified in engineering is very much higher than here?

The Prime Minister

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for bringing this point to my attention. I know that he is concerned in general with the question of training, and the number of women engineers who achieve chartered status, rather than with the narrower point of the Civil Service. I have asked the Head of the Civil Service to look into the position, in consultation with the Departments concerned, to see what we can do to increase the number of women chartered engineers in the Civil Service.

On a wider point, I am asking the Council to which the hon. Gentleman referred to look further into this matter. I cannot express an opinion on whether a conference of the kind he suggests would be helpful, but I will certainly consider it.

Mrs. Lena Jeger

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the problem is caused partly by the syllabus of teaching at so many girls' schools having no relevance to engineering, and will he consult his right hon. Friend on the possibility of exchange courses at boys' and girls' schools to encourage the interests of girls in engineering?

The Prime Minister

Without going into all the issues raised by my hon. Friend, this will be looked into as a result of the Central Advisory Council taking this matter on to its agenda, and my right hon. Friend will be involved in that examination.

Dame Irene Ward

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether career advisers who go to schools where there are both girls and boys could explain to the pupils that there are openings in engineering for trained women and men? This would put the possibilities of an engineering career into proper focus. Not enough is done to inform both sexes about the prospects of a career in engineering.

The Prime Minister

I will bring that proposal to the notice of my right hon. Friend. If more of those who went round to schools giving valuable advice on careers were able to give the sort of advice which the hon. Lady suggests, there would be more willingness in the schools concerned to provide suitable courses.