By Gwen Brewer

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?

I think that ‘Women in Engineering Day’ is a great idea; it is a step in the right direction. It creates awareness that women are a minority in science and engineering field. It throws the spotlight on women who are passionate about engineering and take pride in what they do. Such an initiative can be used to encourage women to consider a career in engineering.

What is the most difficult gender related issue you have encountered in your working career?

I think every woman is very different – we come from different backgrounds, in all shapes and sizes. This should not be criticised but celebrated.

Historically, this industry was dominated by men because it was regarded as masculine role. In a male dominated social environment, this means that an aggressive, insensitive and goal oriented attitude has become more pronounced. These attributes are not typically observed in women, which is why are considered weak. On the other hand, if women are confident and result driven, they are called ‘bossy’ or worse. I think if the workplace does not appreciate different attitudes and culture, it can lead to an inhospitable working environment for women.

This talk hits the nail on the head “Women in Science: Why So Few?” @Meg_Urry https://vimeo.com/35730552

 What have you done to promote women in engineering?

I discuss career opportunities and pitfalls that could be encountered as a woman from my personal experiences. I raise awareness that just because we have been gifted with the responsibility of child-bearing does not make us handicapped and incapable of taking on important roles in society and in engineering.

I find my conversations with women interesting – regardless of their age, social background or level of seniority – we have encountered similar issues professionally and personally.

One piece of advice you would give to a young female starting out in a career in engineering?

Awards and accolades are superficial, the true test of a good engineer is to never waiver on your code of ethics. Always be true to yourself. If you do not agree with something – SPEAK UP in a diplomatic way!

What is the top 5 positive things about being a woman in engineering?

  1. The industry is changing – people welcome women as engineers and are able to retain them
  2. As an engineer in the construction industry, I have been able to use my creativity to incorporate fire protection measures into some iconic projects across the world
  3. Generally, a woman’s opinion is considered equally valid
  4. People trust women to deliver projects and to perform well. It is more common for women to be put forward to work on foreign projects with people from different cultures
  5. I met my closest friends (and husband) through engineering. There a great sense of family (both good and bad) in engineering

What is the top 5 negative things about being a woman in engineering?

  1. We are often judged on our appearance rather than our intellect
  2. Women can be critical of each other. This should be actively discouraged. Women should show solidarity towards each other despite their differences
  3. The industry does not fully recognise that women have family responsibilities as well as career aspirations. This leads to talented women having to make either career sacrifices or be an ‘absent parent’
  4. Women’s issues should be actively promoted throughout all levels of organisations. The responsibility of promoting women related issues should not be solely placed on line managers or women staff
  5. Respect for a woman’s capacity to take on different roles personally and professionally is not highly valued

Click here to view answers from others.

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Gwen Brewer, Women in Engineering, Working at Cundall

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