12 July 2019

Influencing the influencers

We recently headed to sunny Birmingham for the Institute of Engineering and Technology's Gender Parity in Engineering Conference and learned some cool stuff to mark International Women in Engineering Day.

One of the workshops that really got us thinking focused on influencers, with the aim of getting more young people into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Giving young girls good role models to look up to in engineering can encourage them into the field and therefore increase its gender diversity. 

Parents, relatives, friends, teachers and celebrities can be some of the key influencers in a young person’s life. These relationships have significant effects on the opinions young people form, the things they are exposed to and the choices they make. All of these groups can be key in teaching young people about the options and opportunities they have to take advantage of. 

So how can each of these groups help young people into engineering roles? Let’s break it down. 

Parents

Through networks, school communications and family groups, parents can be informed about engineering careers, the sort of salaries engineers can work towards and the opportunities available.

Sharing the message that STEM can open doors to all sorts of exciting careers might help parents to encourage their children into the field. 

 

Teachers

41% of teachers stated that if asked by a child for advice about careers in engineering, they feel they wouldn’t know enough to support them.

So how can we ensure teachers are informed on the options they can offer to their students? Teacher associations, social media groups and CIPD resources can be a great place to start to learn more information on engineering roles, industry trends and opportunities which they can pass on to their students. 

 

Role models/ambassadors

Having role models to look up to is vital for young people. We recently got to chat with Felicity Furey, an Australian social entrepreneur, engineer and leader in all things diversity, who advocates for role models in the engineering industry.

A pretty inspiring ambassador herself, Felicity works to educate girls more on careers in engineering to make the sector more diverse. By hearing stories of successful female engineers and how they got to where they are, careers that may have seemed hard to reach start to open up. 

 

Celebrities

In a world of Instagram models, Love Island and fashion bloggers, 57% of parents admit to being worried that their children aren’t looking up to real-world, relatable figures. But with children increasingly reaching out to celebrities for career advice, is there something that can be done to promote STEM in this way, to show people that STEM is cool?

Young people looking up to the likes of Bill Nye, Elon Musk and Jennifer Doudna can have a more positive effect and lead them down career paths they may not have taken if they were just following typical ‘celebs’. 

 

Where are children going to learn more?

70% of parents regularly help their children with homework, but are also likely to advise their child to ‘Google it’ when they can’t answer a question.

Children are increasingly turning to YouTube to learn more, with daily videos providing a wealth of information and entertainment. Bloggers and vloggers are popular amongst young people for their digestible content and many are even more relatable as teenagers themselves! 

 

Influencing for good

There are compelling stats around the power of influencers, particularly social media influencers. A quick Google search tells us that the top 10 YouTube influencers earned $180.5 million in 2018. So how can we use this for more than just selling stuff? How can we use advocacy for good?

At Synergy we always start with the end goal. What are we trying to achieve? For example, an increase of XX% in the number of females applying for apprenticeships by XX year.

With clarity on the end goal and therefore your audience, you can start to think about identifying the influencers that will help you reach that audience. Are they leaders, peers, celebrities, colleagues, politicians etc? 

Once you’ve found your influencer, you need a plan. What do you need them to do, why and when? What information and support can you equip them with to make sure they really can deliver your key messages?

Turn your plan into reality and get your influencer….influencing. Go live. Start the conversation and make sure to measure it. Advocacy is a powerful tool but only if you can demonstrate the impact it has.

We’ve been working with some brilliant brands to implement influencers programmes, helping to make positive changes in their organisations through their most passionate people. If you’d like to chat more about how influencers could help in your business, get in touch

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