By Chloe Agg
To mark Women in Engineering Day, we asked a number of our female engineers to share their stories and experiences of being a woman in this previously male dominated industry. Click here to view answers from others.
What does women in engineering day mean for you?
For me personally, Women In Engineering day always serves as a reminder of how important it is that we as female engineers go out into schools and the media and inspire others to follow in our wake. I hope that it serves as a similar reminder to organisations to take action to recruit & retain more female engineers.
What is the most difficult gender related issue you have encountered in your working career?
I think most issues relate more to the industry’s need to keep up with modern times, working patterns and attitudes than they relate specifically to gender. Not all companies are great at flexible working, accepting part-time/home-working etc, but I don’t think that’s so much a ‘women’s issue’, it’s as an issue for anyone with caring duties or a life outside of work! Companies that do understand and support those needs are able to recruit from a much broader spectrum of candidates and are therefore much more likely to get the best person for the role!
What have you done to promote women in engineering?
I have done all sorts of things in the past, including mentoring, school talks, online Q&A sessions etc. At the moment my main project for encouraging people to consider an engineering career is a children’s book I am writing about all the different roles in construction.
One piece of advice you would give to a young female starting out in a career in engineering?
Don’t let anyone tell you something can’t be done. I’ve been told you can’t get chartered before you’re 30, that engineers can’t work part time, and that you can’t progress your career and be a devoted parent. I’m living proof that all those things were untrue, but I did have to work hard to make them happen.
What are the top 5 positive things about being a woman in engineering?
- As women are in the minority you tend to get remembered
- People are always surprised by what I do, breaking the mould means I get to have some really interesting conversations about engineering and about feminism and hopefully get a few folks to reconsider their views
- Engineers are generally much more fussed about outputs than outfits, so I’m free to rock up in what I’m comfortable in, whether that’s smart trousers and a jumper, or a dress and some jimmy choos!
- You’re valued for your skills, knowledge and ability
- And last, but definitely not least, and also not woman related; Engineering is a fantastic career, it’s fun, exciting, engaging and philanthropic
What are the top 5 negative things about being a woman in engineering?
- As women are in the minority you tend to get remembered (not so helpful when you’ve made a mistake!)
- Discovering the ladies toilet(s) on site are locked/non-exist *again*
- Being driven nuts by specifications constantly referring to everyone as ‘He’ (when will we develop a gender-neutral pronoun like Sweden?!)
- Some of the older gents still have outdated views and occasionally you’ll get the joy of hearing them (like when you’re wearing a skirt and your boss suggests you should climb on the table to check if the air-conditioning unit is working, specifically because you’re wearing a skirt – that wasn’t at Cundall I hasten to add!)
- The work places that are lagging behind in work-life balance and flexible work practises which lead folks to believe it’s not a family friendly career.
Click here to view answers from others.