The car maker is working to reduce the gender gap in STEM careers and invited female students to take part in a day of STEM activities and tours of the Dunton Technical Centre.

Stephen Metcalfe MP, the government envoy for the Year of Engineering, and Rachel Hayden, 2017 Ford STEM prize winner, joined a number Ford female engineers on a panel discussion and student Q&A on topics ranging from apprentices to senior management roles.

The debate followed a keynote speech delivered by Sue Slaughter, director of purchasing at Ford of Europe.

Slaughter said: “At Ford, we recognise the challenges of attracting young people – especially girls – to pursue STEM-related careers. However, we find this to be largely based around perception. We run this event to show-off the wide range of exciting, future-facing STEM careers so that these female students understand all of the opportunities available and can be inspired by what is most suited to them.”

Metcalfe added: “With females making up an estimated 12% of the engineering workforce, events such as [this] are imperative in engaging young students with the vast opportunities available to engineers, which will reduce the gender and skills gaps within the industry in the future.”

The students participated in a range of activities including an exercise in lean manufacturing techniques and programming using Edison robots. Insight into the breadth and scope of engineering careers was also introduced through a site tour, which included the Environmental Test Lab, Emissions Test lab and a calibration activity on the Dunton test track.

International Women in Engineering Day is just one of the initiatives Ford supports in the effort to reduce the gender gap.