COVID-19 hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm for a Collins Aerospace initiative introducing girls to the opportunities available in STEM subjects and engineering.

Katy Cody, head of corporate social responsibility for Collins Aerospace, explained to FINN all about the development of the company’s “Introduce a girl to engineering” initiative, which has been running for the past two decades.

Cody said: “It’s really about exposing girls who wouldn’t otherwise get the exposure to engineers, and women that are inspiring at work, we bring them in, we show them all the cool products that we work on. We show them what it means to be an engineer and all the opportunities that exist. And we really hope to bring them into the field.”

Only 13 per cent of engineers are women

Collins Aerospace’s approach is the get to the root of the problem, creating interest in engineering while girls are still in primary or early secondary stages of education. She explained the scale of the problem: “There’s really only 13 per cent of engineers are women right now. And that’s not good enough. So we’ve got to bring their innovation and their excitement, and, and hope to get even more women to work at Collins.”

Fifty-seven different Collins Aerospace sites have participated in the intiative across 13 different countries. Within Europe, there were events in the UK, Poland, France and Italy and within India, Singapore, and the Philippines in Asia.

“We try and reach out to the girls that wouldn’t otherwise get this experience,” Cody added. “So we’ll reach out to some disadvantaged schools or some community organisations. So it’s not it’s not “take your kid to work” day, it’s really about exposing those who what wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity.”

Programme gives girls a firsthand experience of innovation

Cody said it was vital that girls were exposed to the facilities, products and work environment of engineering, rather than just attending talks about it. She said: “A lot of the girls don’t even know what engineers are, they don’t know what they do. By coming into our facilities, or this year, doing it virtually and showing them all the different cool products that we work on and the opportunities, they get to see firsthand what it would be like to experience that and innovation that they could create new things. And they could work on products that go out into space, or that are on aircraft, or save people’s lives, like our ejection seats. And it’s really these innovative, amazing products that in most cases are in their backyards, they don’t have to go far to have these amazing careers. And these women are excited, the women that work for us are really passionate about this and about helping the next generation come up and be innovators as well.”

Previous attendees are now role models for the next generation

Having run for 20 years the programme now benefits from the involvement of some of the girls that started the programme in middle school who are now working for Collins and are role models for the initiative. “So many of those women are now passing it on, and are volunteering at these events and showing girls that it really can happen. And they can go to these events in middle school and come up and work for Collins.”

This year’s event had to go virtual, but Cody said the company took a creative approach to engage girls. There was a live innovation workshop with Time’s first Kid of the Year, Gitanjali Rao, a 15 year old scientist and engineer. Former NASA astronaut Joan Higginbotham, who works for Collins Aerospace, hosted a Q&A session with students and talked about what it’s like to go into space. There were also a live product demonstrations and activities that the girls could do from home.

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