women in engineering

February 12, 2016, by Grace Pownall

How Women Are Thriving In Engineering

By Grace Pownall, student blogger

On 1 February, engineering students gathered with representatives from Arup, Siemens, PepsiCo, BP, and the RAF to discuss this statement:

“Engineering is an excellent career for women to thrive in”

The response was a definitive:

“Yes, it is!”

Students also had the opportunity to pick the brains of graduates and senior engineers, gaining in-depth insights into what working in the industry is really like day-to-day – as a professional engineer, not just as a woman.

Professor Sarah Sharples, a champion of women in engineering, introduced the event by highlighting how important it is to support women in STEM careers. She then opened up discussions on the first topic of the night:

Diversity is key

Engineering is an industry that relies on people working together to generate solutions to problems. Better solutions come from discussions between people with different ideas. Every person has a different outlook and opinion on the best way to solve a problem; the more variation, the more alternative solutions to choose from.

Be it a different degree, culture, academic background, sexuality or gender, a diverse workplace results in more diverse ideas. Different perspectives are how engineers push boundaries and create innovative answers to the world’s problems.

It’s a man’s world – and other misconceptions

We then split into group discussions, where the speakers highlighted that when women discussed their work with people from other fields, they were often faced with the same question:

“What is it like working with all those men?”

After talking with two Nottingham alumni; one a recent physics graduate, working for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the other an electrical engineer with nearly 20 years of experience at Arup; it became clear that the answer was  simple – it’s not a big deal!

“It’s not difficult to be a female engineer in the UK. Don’t make your own barriers.”

The idea that it is hard to succeed in a male-dominated environment is nonsense. Being one of few women in a team can be used to your advantage. It gives you the opportunity to stand out and be remembered. Often female engineers have to work that little bit harder to overcome adversity, but this extra resilience and drive can help them become better engineers.

You don’t get an extra tick just for being a woman

In the UK, less than 10% of the engineering workforce are women. This is a shockingly low statistic when compared with the rest of Europe. Engineering companies are encouraged to hire more women to increase this percentage, so with quotas and positive discrimination to consider, is it really easier to get a job in engineering if you are female?

The answer is no. Companies are aiming to attract more employees to meet the rising demand for engineers- irrespective of their gender or their background.

It’s all about personality

Success in the engineering world does not rely on characteristics you cannot choose – gender, sexuality, background or culture – but on personality. Drive, determination, creative problem solving and ambition matter much more.

We were advised to be ourselves.

Women shouldn’t try to fit themselves into the stereotype of what a female engineer ‘should’ be. Future generations of engineers won’t be inspired by role models that are all the same.

The future of engineering

The ‘leaky pipeline’ metaphor is often used to describe the drop in the number of girls studying subjects required for engineering between GCSE and A-Level. In fact, many women only consider engineering if they know a close family relative in the profession; someone to shine a light on the many exciting aspects of working in this field – the chance to be creative, improve lives and even travel the world.

Google ‘women in engineering’ and you are presented with an array of images, mostly showing women wearing hard hats, overalls or high-vis jackets. These are just a fraction of the wide range of roles carried out by engineers.

Engineers solve problems through designing, testing, managing, planning, calculating and more. We all agreed these are the images we want to see being presented to young people. Women leading exciting and diverse careers – women who are thriving in engineering.

This year’s Women in Engineering takes place on Thursday 2 February 2017, book your place now. 

Interested in a career in engineering? Why not book a one-to-one session with one of our careers advisers to find out more about the diverse opportunities available to you. 

Posted in Careers AdviceStudent Bloggers