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Women are engineering heroes too. Celebrate International Women in Engineering

23 June 2021
The Business Magazine article image for: Women are engineering heroes too. Celebrate International Women in Engineering

Today is International Women in Engineering Day and it's good news-ish.

New analysis from EngineeringUK has shown 14.5 per cent of those working in engineering are female, an increase from the 12 per cent reported in 2018. Still some way to go, then, but progress too.

The latest data taken from the Labour Force Survey Q2 2020 shows that the proportion of women working in engineering has increased over time both proportionally and in absolute numbers, outpacing the rate seen in the wider workforce. However, despite the gender gap closing there is still a lot of work to be done and the proportion of women engineers in the workforce remains woefully low.

However, women are still significantly underrepresented in engineering and technology in higher education. UCAS data on university application and acceptance figures for the 2020 cycle highlighted those women represent just 16 per cent and 18 were cent of accepted applications to computing and engineer degrees respectively. At the current rate of progress, parity of women in engineering degrees will not be achieved until 2085.

The Women's engineering Society has also revealed its Top 50 Women in Engineering, which includes a number from across our region.

Head Judge, Professor Catherine Noakes OBE CEng FIMechE FIHEEM said: “2020 was a year unlike any other and remarkable times call for remarkable people. That is why, in 2021, the Top 50 Women in Engineering Awards celebrate the engineering heroes who have responded to the challenges of an ever-changing world, from healthcare and climate change to infrastructure and championing diversity, with inspirational innovation and leadership. With over 230 nominations, only the exceptional made it to the top 50. The standard of nominations received was outstanding. It was wonderful to read about the achievements of these extraordinary women and the impact that they are making on society with their talent, hard work and dedication. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how truly important science, technology and engineering are to the health of our planet. The 2021 WE50 personify the inventive and inclusive thinking needed to build a sustainable future. If there was ever a time that we needed these heroes in engineering, it is now.”

But there are many other businesses with women engineers carving successful careers for themselves including, of course, Dyson in Malmesbury.

Vicky Gibson-Robinson, Engineering Manager

Vicky has worked at Dyson for over nine years and currently works within Design Engineering, where she works with a team to develop Dyson’s latest air treatment technology. She joined as a graduate engineer in 2012 and has since worked on a number of products, most recently on the air inlet system and chassis components of Dyson’s ventilator.

At school, Vicky was torn between studying maths and art, enjoying both the creativity of art, but also the logic of maths. At the age of 15, she came across the Dyson website and found that engineering was the perfect mix of creativity and logic. This inspired her to one day become an engineer at Dyson, an ambition which she eventually realised. She went on to study Product Design at Brunel University and joined Dyson upon graduating.

Anoushka Patel, Undergraduate Engineer

At The Dyson Institute, Dyson’s own university, one third of 150 students (33%) identify as female, compared to the average 21% of females on UK engineering undergraduate courses?

Anoushka has worked at Dyson for two years, having joined the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology as an undergraduate engineer in September 2019. Her role at the Institute has given her a unique opportunity to work within live global project teams, solving challenging problems, whilst simultaneously studying for an Engineering degree. She currently works in the Hair Care New Product Innovation team in a Design Engineering role helping devise the Dyson styling tools of the future.

Gergana Tatarova, Data Scientist

When Gergana was growing up in Bulgaria, she was told that girls couldn’t be engineers because it was too technical a field for women. Defying convention, she went on to study Product Design in Glasgow and in Norway. Gergana started working as a Design Engineer in the innovation team for Dyson’s environmental care category almost four years ago. She then went on a nine-month secondment as a Category Intelligence Engineer supporting the South Korean and Japanese Dyson markets, which led her to a career change – she has been a Data Scientist in New Product Innovation for just over a year now.

At Williams Advanced Engineering in Oxfordshire, Dr. Nasrin Shahed Khah isa  Senior Battery Systems Engineer, Melissa He and Rachel Lear are Battery Systems Engineers and all three work in the company’s Advanced Battery Team

Renishaw inspires future female engineers with all-female work experience week

To encourage more female secondary school students to consider a career in engineering, Gloucestershire-based global engineering technologies company, Renishaw, held its first ever all-female virtual work experience week in April 2021. The week was part of Renishaw's virtual engineering work experience scheme, which will host 140 students in years 10 to 13 during 2021.

Renishaw is encouraging more diversity in the engineering industry by providing empowering opportunities for women in the workplace and those entering the industry. The work experience week aimed to inspire girls to see roles in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as viable and achievable career options. Renishaw received over 250 applications for its work experience weeks, with a third of these from female students, which shows a growing interest in STEM careers from young women. During the application process the girls were able to apply to the all-female week or the mixed weeks that will all take place during the school holidays.

During the all-female work experience week the girls worked as teams on a project-based task to give them an insight into the various roles they could pursue in an engineering career. Each group of five girls was presented with an engineering challenge and asked to design a solution using computer aided design (CAD) software and cardboard prototypes. The groups were mentored virtually by a number of Renishaw employees in different roles, such as Project Managers, Design Engineers and Graduate Engineers. The girls also attended skills sessions where they learnt presentation skills, CAD tips and tricks, and CV writing skills.

“This work experience opportunity has been very helpful in teaching me about the opportunities available in the engineering industry and about Renishaw as a company,” explained one attendee. “What I have learnt will help me make more informed decisions about my future education and career.”

Parents were also invited to join the project presentations at the end of the week. One commented, “My daughter really seemed to enjoy the experience. It was lovely to see her confidence grow and I definitely feel this week has provided her with a stepping stone to help decide her future career.”

“The all-female week has given the girls the opportunity to build their confidence and learn more about working in the Engineering industry, without possibly feeling intimidated by working on their projects with large numbers of male students,” commented Sarah Lewis, Education Tutor and Technician at Renishaw. “Although this model does not fully replicate the real engineering world, we hope the girls saw how they could realise their potential and the rewarding nature of a a future career in Engineering."

Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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