As International Women in Engineering Day approaches HE Simm have been speaking to some of our female engineers to get an insight in to what inspires them, why they chose engineering as a calling and what challenges they have faced in the industry. We should celebrate our brilliant, female engineers and encourage more women to consider the industry as a viable option.
Our first chat was with Annabel Moore, a Mechanical Design Engineer who is one of the new generation of female engineers who are vital to the future success of our industry. Here she shares her experiences with us.
Hi Annabel, why did you decide to become an engineer?
I believe I shown early signs of an engineer as a young child, as I was always very intrigued about how things worked, I would be forever dismantling my toys, clocks, tv remotes and trying to put them back together!
I decided to become an engineer as I always had a passion for maths and physics in school and I really enjoyed art and design. I achieved very high grades in these subjects, which led me to continue them as A-levels.
What was your experience as a female, studying a STEM subject?
I had a great time whilst studying at John Moores University, I never faced any discriminatory comments and always felt like I was treated equally. My course was made up of about 10% girls, we also had some female lecturers.
Whilst studying I completed a yearlong industrial placement in the building services sector. During my placement I spent a lot of time based on building sites. I found my first site visit very daunting. I was the only female on the whole site. This was the first time I felt as though I didn’t fit in.
This experience really helped me improve my confidence, as I quickly realised the only person who thought I didn’t fit in, was myself. Being on site enabled me to put the theory I had learnt in University in to practice and allowed me to see whole engineering systems in practice.
While you were at GCSE/A-level age, was engineering discussed as a possible career with you and your peers? Does more need to be done in this area?
Unfortunately, as a young student, engineering was never suggested/discussed with me. I was very unaware of what an engineer was. I was confused as to where my A-levels would take me, in my head they were very conflicting subjects which didn’t have an obvious route. I enjoyed all 3 A-levels and wanted to continue to study them all further, however I did not think there would be a course what would allow me to do so.
At this point I went to a careers advisor and discussed with him my passions and strengths, he instantly suggested engineering. This was the first time anybody had ever explained what engineering was, despite the obvious signs I had shown throughout my life and school career.
I went to a few open days, and decided this was exactly what I wanted to be, an engineer.
I do believe more needs to be done in this area, STEM careers need to be discussed more and at an earlier stage with young females. Once I graduated I became a STEM ambassador, my role allows me to go into schools and colleges and discuss with young students, particularly girls, how I got to where I am, and what I do day to day. I hope my sessions inspire more young girls to take up a STEM career.
Who has/have been the biggest influence on your decision to take up engineering?
I must give credit to the careers advisor who directed me towards engineering, as I do not believe I would have taken this route without his advice, also my family have always been very encouraging towards my studies.
How do you see engineering changing as more women enter the industry?
Studies show that on average the female and male brain solve problems in different ways, having a team of engineers made up of both males and females would bring about diversity of thought and different approaches to design solutions. As more and more females enter the industry and this diversity of thought continues to grow, the industry can only get stronger.
If as many females as males went in to engineering careers the engineering skills gap could be reduced and more engineering advances could be made throughout the World.
What do you feel needs to be done to attract more women to engineering?
Teachers and parents need to keep girls engaged in STEM subjects from an early age. Spot early signs when young girls show interest in STEM subjects and discuss and explain the different careers available to them.
I believe female engineers should make themselves known in their local schools and colleges in the hope of inspiring young girls in to the field and erasing the ingrained idea that all engineers are male.
Lastly, I would say that the female engineer shortage needs to be spoken about more frequently within engineering companies, these discussions could inspire parents within the field to start speaking to their young girls about careers in STEM subjects.