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International Women in Engineering Day 2019 is being held on Sunday the 23rd of June. This is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. In celebration of this day, one of our female engineers Cristina has given her thoughts on women in this industry and her advice to inspire others.
What lead you to take up a career in engineering?
I was good at maths at school and I knew that maths ties in with engineering and science. The main driving factor in my choice of a career in engineering has been that the world demands more engineers every day and that STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are rewarding and respected jobs. During my career I realised how reductive that view was. In an engineering job, you’ll never face a shortage of challenging problems: an engineering career exercise your brain, develops your ability to think logically and to solve problems, skills that are valuable throughout life and not only when solving engineering problems. Creativity is very important too, as it allows engineers to improvise and confront new situations. This makes every working day interesting and can lead to a quite good level of satisfaction, which is very important if we think of how much time of our life we actually spend in the office.
What would you say to inspire women to take up this career?
Engineering is a great field to get into. Engineers are practical, they like to take things apart and see how things work: if you’ve got that type of mentality, whether you are male or female, then getting to do that in the workplace is a dream job. It’s also worth highlighting the variety of career opportunities that a degree in engineering offers: the majority of today’s college graduates will have more than one career during their work life, and engineering can provide a strong foundation for almost any one of them. The opportunities in engineering range in sector – Automotive, Aerospace, Rail, Construction, Water, Chemical and that’s only naming a few. Although engineering is still an uncommon choice for a woman, there are actually no barriers in many workplaces between genders: that’s because skills will be enough for people to realise that you know what you’re doing, no matter if you’re a man or a woman.
What do you think needs to be done to encourage more women in take up a career in engineering?
Women in STEM are generally underrepresented, and this is particularly apparent in engineering.
I believe that there is a gender stereotype issue, which often begins in primary school. Ideally girls at a young enough age should be encouraged to consider a career in engineering, and to do so parents, teachers and careers services need to be equipped to signpost engineering as an option. Stereotypes can also be challenged by exposing girls to examples of women who have succeeded in STEM, making it easier for girls to envision themselves following a similar path to success.