Recently in the Financial Times, Anjana Ahuja considered that her eventual career in engineering might be attributed to the early choosing of a Meccano set in favour of dolls.

From early childhood we are steered towards gendered, colour-coded aisles that inform our understanding of what it means to be female.

As young girls, we don’t often see the underlying injustices or biases that surround us in our daily lives. The ominous message behind the glitter-covered Barbie is hidden by a swath of pink wrapping, and we beam proudly as adults tell us how pretty we look, not noticing how it shapes our self-identity and worth.

Talent posterI was raised in a household where rainy afternoons meant taking over the dining room table and building entire cities out of an extensive Lego set; but I also had a toy kitchen and numerable Barbies. I went to an all-girls school which encouraged and supported the STEM subjects, but I took every humanity I could and shunned science.

I ended up reading history at university and now work in the female-dominated third sector. At no point would I consider this a failure, because it is not about making girls do STEM subjects, it is about offering them the choice and making it a viable option. I had that choice and I turned it down – and that is what equality looks like.

Today we posted Talent 2030 promotional packs to almost 500 secondary schools across the country. Each contained sets of flyers and posters, as well as resources for teachers and students to enter the National Engineering Competition for Girls. The competition asks girls to think of a way that engineering can solve a 21st century problem of their choosing. It encourages them to think innovatively and empathetically, about the uses of engineering in the wider world. Our hope, is that the teachers and staff who receive these packs view them as a way to brighten the futures of their young, talented female students.

View it as a challenge to the stereotypes that inform girls that physics and maths are too hard for them, too hands-on or too mechanical. Run it as an activity which demonstrates how being female is an asset to engineering and tech, not something to overcome. Because if you don’t give a teenage girl the opportunity to discover that’s she great at programming, designing or developing, then who knows what she, and we, might miss out on.

The National Engineering Competition for Girls opens on September 28th and entries are welcomed until 6pm on December 18th. For more information, visit Talent 2030 website, or email Sarah (Project Officer: Talent).