My research at University was very theoretical. I wanted to move to a discipline where I could see the work I was involved in having practical applications. Engineering is the perfect example of that – the work engineers do helps to improve every part of our daily life.
What was your first job?
Research scientist at an Aerospace Engineering firm, using CFD (computational fluid dynamics) to analyze air flow around aircraft.
Were you the only woman on the team? What was that like?
Actually, there were three women in the team of ten engineers – this was an unusually high ratio. I noticed the difference when visiting our engineering company customers: there, I was often the only woman in the meeting.
How was your career evolved over the years?
Over the course of my career I have moved from focusing on one particular engineering application to a much broader scope: after working in aerospace I moved to CD-adapco where I worked as a support engineer, helping customers from many different industries to get the most out of the CFD software. Over time I realized my skills in presenting and communicating complex ideas in an understandable way could be used in many different roles – now I work as part of the Simcenter marketing team, helping to showcase our customers’ successes and the benefits that the Simcenter portfolio can bring to the engineering industry. I now focus on marine applications, but am passionate about innovation in any sector!
Who has helped you along the way?
I have been lucky to both work in and lead teams full of brilliant people – when everyone in a team wants to work together, support each other and succeed you can produce great work. I have also worked for a couple of excellent managers who recognized my strengths and encouraged me to work to the best of my abilities.
Do you think being a woman helped or hurt your career?
I would like to think that my gender has had no effect on my career and that I have been judged on the strength of my work rather than anything else. However, choosing to take time out to raise my children means my career has not advanced as rapidly as my male peers. I certainly don’t think I have gained any advantages in my career from being female!
Have you seen things change in the world of engineering in regards to gender equality?
I have not seen any difference in the number of women choosing to enter engineering since I started, so I do not think anything has changed. People’s attitudes are changing slowly – for example behavior to female colleagues which would have been considered amusing a few years ago is now considered unacceptable.
What type of advice would you give young women looking to enter engineering?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! It can often seem that everyone else already knows the answer, but don’t hesitate to speak up if you are unsure about anything. Often you will find that you are not the only one who wants to know the answer. And the more you know the better a job you can do!
Would you advise your daughter to follow in your footsteps? Why or why not?
It is interesting how similar my career and the skills that I use are to my Dad’s work – he was also an engineer. If my daughter showed the same interests I would encourage her to follow a similar path. Science and engineering is such a broad field and suits anyone with an enquiring mind. My daughter is now seven and understands a bit of what I do - “Mummy helps people to build boats and stops them sinking and costing lots of money”.
What still should be done to make the world of engineering more gender equal?
There is still a huge difference in the numbers of men and women choosing to enter engineering in the first place. Until this changes, engineering will never be gender equal. We need to encourage girls to look at engineering as a career by showing what it really is, and the broad range of jobs available. Encouraging engagement with STEM from an early age is vital.
How far do we have to go to achieve gender equality as a whole?
There is still a way to go – while gender equality is now viewed as something to aim for, there are still plenty of examples in every day life which show we are not there yet. We need to keep challenging people when we see gender stereotyping –from pink toys for girls and blue toys for boys to casual comments, assumptions and jokes in conversation. Last month I sat in a meeting where a male presenter actually said ‘here is an example for the ladies – a washing machine’. I am sure he thought it was a light hearted joke but it is not the way we should joke these days.
Do you honestly think gender equality is possible?
Yes, but it is difficult. Gender equality does not just mean ‘everyone has the same rights’, or ‘women are treated the same as men’ but should mean a true acceptance of the value people of any gender give to society, whatever roles they play. I think we are a long way off from that. As mother to a boy and a girl I have an important job in helping the next generation on the way to a truly gender equal society!