Former F1 World Champion Jenson Button is leading the movement to get more women involved in engineering.
The Santander UK ambassador appeared alongside a host of high-profile speakers at the Formula Student World Finals in Silverstone – the world’s largest engineering competition attended by over 4,000 students representing 130 global universities.
He said female engineers are already making a big difference in motor sport, but that we need a far higher percentage in order to address imbalances.
“It vital to push for more women working in mechanical engineering. Many Le Mans championships have been won by female engineers so there is obviously no reason why more females can’t get involved, including the driving.”
“I’ve worked with very competitive women at the highest levels of engineering, but we need many more to enter the field. I’m here today to help inspire the next generation of engineers and to highlight the importance of support provided by Santander Universities.”
The UK has a low number of female engineering and technology undergraduates, with just 15.8 per cent currently partaking in related courses.
Recent surveys indicate that just 11 per cent of the current engineering workforce is female, making the UK home to the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe.
Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams F1 Rob Smedley, who appeared alongside Button at the British Racing Drivers Club, said: “I think engineering has a real image problem that we need to work on.
“We get nowhere near enough females in the Formula 1 workplace.
“It’s getting better, but it’s nowhere near enough.
“I always try to get as many females into my group as possible because it’s an alpha male environment, and when you put girls into that mix then they act like the control rod.
“And what you get is a much better product.”
Formula Student boasts an above industry average number of females on competing teams (13 per cent vs 9 per cent nationally).
Defending Formula Student champions Cardiff University have 23 per cent women studying STEM subjects, which is 10 per cent above the national average.
The event has benefited from support from programmes such as Santander Universities, which funds 11 of the competing teams as part of its work to inspire the next generation of engineers, encourage the study of STEM subjects and diversity in the field.
Since 2007, Santander Universities has invested £69 million in supporting UK students and universities, providing over £10m funding in 2017 alone.
Button said: “It’s fantastic that Santander Universities have given the opportunity to so many in higher education to come here today and compete for this illustrious prize.
“Formula Student is massive and it’s great to see over a hundred teams here competing.
“They have put a year of their lives into competing here this weekend.
“Some of the cars that they engineered with and the ideas that they have come up with are outstanding”.
Matt Hutnell, UK Director of Santander Universities added: “The reason we give back to higher education is that they are the future of society.
“In the UK Santander’s purpose is to help people and businesses to prosper, and there is not anything that we do that epitomises that more than what we are doing today and supporting higher education in general.”
Santander Universities is recognised as the world’s largest corporate supporter of higher education.