HAVE a guess. What percentage of women do you think make up the engineering industry in the UK? 30 per cent? 15 per cent? Actually, just 12 per cent of engineers in the UK workforce today are female.

Despite girls performing better than boys in science and engineering GCSE subjects, still not enough young women are pursuing a career in industry.

However, an event to inspire the next generation of female engineers has gone some way in rectifying that.

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, Ford Dunton Technical Centre, in Laindon, threw open its doors to welcome 120 girls from across 12 secondary schools in Essex and neighbouring counties.

Year Nine pupils from schools including The King Edmund School, in Rochford, and The Billericay School were invited to take part in a tour of the test track, as well as activities including a virtual reality experience, programming and rocket building.

Ford’s female engineers lead the event, hosting discussions for the pupils with the hopes of raising the profile of women in engineering and showcasing the diverse career opportunities which are available at Ford.

Ford engineer Nicole Barrett, 28, from Billericay, said: “Engineering is whatever you want it to be, there’s so much you can do that before, I never even knew existed.

“I was trying to find a career which suited my interest in physics and maths. Before I had never considered engineering, but I knew I wanted to do something with my love for problem- solving.

“I’ve always loved using my brain to find a solution, so I took what I knew I liked to do from school and ran with it. Engineering has opened a whole new world for me. Now, I work on the hybrid cars which Ford is launching.”

With research revealing that only 12 per cent of the UK’s engineering force is female, experts were determined to show the girls what was in store for them in the field of engineering.

“A lot of people have a misconception as to what engineering is,” added Nicole.

“Most things require an engineer, whether it’s designing anything with moving parts, software for cars or phones, and even buildings have engineers. No matter your skills or background the opportunities you have are immense.

“The most rewarding thing for me is being able to see what you’ve been working so hard on come to life. What you make, design and do as an engineer can really make a change to the world.

“We want these girls to make an informed choice about their futures, and at least consider engineering, because more people should.

“Even if we just help educate them so they’re a bit more informed, I’d say our job is done.”

Ford engineer Alice Swallow, 23, also from Billericay, said: “I had the opportunity to meet Richard Noble at a student event, who was the project manager of the Bloodhound SSC, a supersonic land vehicle which aims to match or surpass 1,000 miles per hour.

“Stuff like this is really cool, there’s so much you can do with engineering, which is one of the reasons I started.

“Engineering for girls isn’t promoted enough, which is why we started this event in the first place. People don’t picture us when they think of engineering, all they think of is boys and mechanics.

“I went to a mixed school, where we was really pushed by our peers to do humanity subjects. We wanted to show how diverse engineering can be and hope to illustrate the message to these girls that women can do anything men can. We all have the ability, no matter our gender, race, it shouldn’t matter. As long as you’ve got the willing to try you can do anything. Not only am I doing this for these girls, but I’m doing this for my 14 year old self, I wish someone was there to show what options I had.”

Ford engineer Alexandra Walker, Powertrain Quality Manager added: “In the centenary year of the Women’s Engineering Society, we are proud to be hosting so many young women at our Dunton site.

“We want to show the girls just how diverse and rewarding careers in STEM and, in particular, engineering can be, and give them a taste of what it’s like to be Ford engineer.”