A leading British psychologist claims efforts to produce more female engineers are misguided and pointless.
Dr Gijsberg Stoet, a reader in psychology at Glasgow University, argues that efforts by encourage more young women to enter the engineering profession are futile and should be abandoned.
Addressing the British Education Studies Association in Glasgow, Stoet said education authorities "probably needed to give up on the idea that we will get many female engineers or male nurses," on the grounds that innate biological difference make each sex better or worse suited to certain professions.
Stoet believes it will be "really hard" to whet widespread enthusiasm for subjects such as engineering amongst female students, as they are naturally inclined to find these topic areas dull.
"Girls will say, 'Well that's boring, I'm just not interested in it,'" said Stoet. "We need to have a national debate on why we find it so important to have equal numbers."
According to Stoet, money used to encourage students to choose a certain profession or field of study was sure to be misspent, because individuals are automatically drawn to those subjects for which they possess a strong aptitude.
Stoet said it would be preferable for gender disparities in professions such as engineering to persist if it means that those women who enter the field do so because of native inclination and find their careers genuinely satisfying.
"What is better? To have 50 per cent of female engineers who do not really like their work but say, 'Yeah, well, I did it for the feminist cause.' Or do you want three per cent of female engineers to say 'I really like my job?" said Stoet.
Stoet's remarks arrive amidst concerted measures by educators and engineers in both the UK and Australia to attract more women to a profession which is notorious for being heavily male-dominated.
In Australia at least, these efforts have achieved significant results, with nearly a quarter of engineering undergraduates at the University of Queensland now women following the launch of the Women in Engineering initiative.