International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) – Remarkable Women

Female leaders share their advice for considering a career in engineering.

The UK Government’s Engineering: Take A Closer Look campaign is an opportunity to promote the profession and particularly the inspiring women, breaking the mould and helping encourage young women to consider engineering as a career.

We’ve long championed diversity and celebrating women in leadership positions, that’s why we’re shining a spotlight on the industry’s fiercely talented female leaders to show that you can develop well-paid careers in this thriving and highly productive industry.

Read on to learn how they got started, their thoughts on the industry and their advice for other women considering a career in engineering. It’s invaluable advice from women who’ve achieved great success. According to Engineering UK in their State of Engineering report, only 12% of those working in core and related engineering roles are women. Through their industry experience and leadership platforms they continue to articulate powerful messages on how to make it as a woman in the industry in 2019.

  • Britain has a proud engineering heritage and still leads the world in sectors like aerospace and automotive engineering.
  • Engineering contributed £486 billion to UK GDP in 2015.
  • However, in 2018, Engineering UK reported a 20,000 annual shortfall of engineering graduates in the UK which impacts on the UK’s productivity and growth.
  • The industry needs 203,000 skilled recruits each year to 2024 to keep pace with demand.
  • Engineering plays a leading role in tackling some of the biggest challenges we face identified through the modern Industrial Strategy.
  • We need more engineers to ensure the UK leads the way on the AI and data revolution and the global shift to clean growth, harness the power of innovation to fight disease and meet the needs of an ageing society and become a world leader in the future of mobility – the way people, goods and services move.
  • Engineers play a key role in designing the infrastructure and technology that we all use on a daily basis. It is crucial that people of different genders, ethnicity and social backgrounds are part of shaping a world that works for everyone.
  • The engineering sector faces a major skills gap and a lack of diversity. It is vital to ensure that we have the most diverse talent pool and all young people are considering whether they wish to embark on creative, well-paid careers in this thriving and highly productive industry.
  • The industry needs to work together to show talented young people from different backgrounds the vast opportunities engineering offers to shape the world around them, and the different routes they can take into engineering careers.

Jane Butler, Vice-Dean (Enterprise) at UCL

What exactly do you do? 

I look after defining and delivering the Enterprise strategy across the Faculty of Engineering at UCL which includes everything from the large corporate partnerships to the entrepreneurship programme. 

What made you go/get into the field you are in?

I studied Engineering at university and ended up following a career in the Internet industry which was extremely rewarding and very flexible.

What do you find exciting about it, what do you get out of it, why do you enjoy it?

Helping young people to follow their careers from their undergraduate degree through to running their own company or having a fulfilling career in a larger company is extremely rewarding. 

Why might you encourage others into the industry/consider a career in engineering?

A career in Engineering can be extremely fulfilling and exciting, being at the forefront of shaping the future and changing the world for the better, working with remarkable people from different fields and often within very flexible and stimulating environments. As a field, we need to change the systems, settings and processes currently in place in order to create an inclusive and supportive environment for all, one which encourages and enables people from all backgrounds to consider a career in Engineering. 

What are some of the really interesting things you’ve worked on?

Helping shape the Internet, both the public Internet and several corporate networks over many years. On top of that helping bring the Internet and connectivity to those without much infrastructure is hugely rewarding. 

What would you say is the biggest/greatest satisfaction you get from your career? 

Always being close to the forefront of innovation and helping as many young people with their careers is now where I get a lot of satisfaction. 

Why is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) important and what does it mean to you?

INWED offers a platform for those in Engineering to connect and talk about all the positive experiences in their career. This can be extremely empowering and inspirational for girls and young women making informed career choices and looking for support and guidance.

Miriam Nweze

What exactly do you do?

My current area of research is in the field of Biomechanical Engineering. I Specifically, I address visual impairment and sight loss. The aim of my work is to develop a spraying device to treat retinal degenerative diseases that will help by delivering stem cells into the eye to restore the function of the eye. 

What made you go/get into the field you are in?

I was searching for a career path that will help me develop a combination of different skills and still allow me to be creative with my work. With a bit of personal research, guidance from my sister and school teachers engineering was stood out among other options.

I was immediately attracted to engineering as a discipline; it had the perfect collection of skills to develop. The idea to be able to offer life changing contributions in the society challenged me even further that I wanted to among upcoming game changers in the field.

The more challenging and demanding a task is, the more I am attracted to do it and produce positive results, despite the obstacles ahead. 

What do you find exciting about it, what do you get out of it, why do you enjoy it?

What I enjoy the most is being able to meet with people from different backgrounds and working together towards a common goal. Every day is different for me and that brings a different challenge daily. 

Why might you encourage others into the industry/consider a career in engineering?

Considering a career in engineering means you get to make a difference and also stand out from the crowd. I would especially like young girls to know that they can bring something different to the table. As long as they put their mind into it they can achieve anything. The sky is the limit!

What are some of the really interesting things you’ve worked on?

Apart from my current research, I have also worked on the Engineering Ice Cream Project (incorporating engineering-based concepts), assisting with improvement of orthopaedic implants, using medical imaging and 3D drawing to create 3D anatomical structures to help medicine, career advisor for secondary school children and various outreach and public engagement programmes.

What would you say is the biggest/greatest satisfaction you get from your career?

My greatest satisfaction is seeing the impact my contribution has over the long term. I also had the great opportunity to travel to Hawaii and present my work to over 10,000 healthcare professionals and employers. I received lots of positive feedback on my work.

Why is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) important and what does it mean to you?

It gives the opportunity to inspire other young women, meet amazing women in our field from all walks of life, but also encourages me to be the best in my field and take every opportunity available to me.

Hear from Arundathi Shanthini

What Exactly Do You Do?

I am currently pursuing my MEng (Electronics with Computer Science) degree in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering here at UCL. We learn how to design, simulate and analyse circuits, the theory behind communication systems and the various processes involved behind its working; designing, synthesizing and testing digital circuits in various different ways and a lot more!

But it is not all theory, we also have lots of practical work in our course in the form of challenges, scenarios and lab work, which gives us exposure to working in teams. This also helps us develop project management skills whilst learning various practical skills like designing circuit boards, designing and building prototypes, simulating communication systems on software etc.

What made you go/get into the field you are in?

It is definitely my interest in science that initially drew me towards engineering. As a child I went through different phases during my time at school. There was a time when I loved Biology and wanted to do something in the medical field. But when I was introduced to coding, I started enjoying it more.

Then I realised that I like building things and just pure coding probably won’t keep me creatively satisfied so then I started working on small electronic hobby projects. That’s how I discovered electronic engineering as an option that had the potential of involving both logical and designing/building. But yes, at the end it all started with my love for Engineering which started growing in me around Year 7 at school.

What do you find exciting about it, what do you get out of it, why do you enjoy it?

I have always loved building and creating things. I enjoy the process of creating something, even though sometimes it involves failing and trying again or sometimes even starting all over again. But when I finally see it work as expected, I get a unique feeling of satisfaction and joy. That’s what I work towards.

Even though I initially hated the process of having to go through several failed iterations of the same task before succeeding, over the years I have grown to like and appreciate this process of failing and learning, as much as the joy that the final product gives.

So even today, being able to work hands-on on projects and the creative satisfaction you get at the end of achieving the desired results is what I find the most exciting about engineering. 

Why might you encourage others into the industry/consider a career in engineering? 

It is sad that engineering is (or shall I say was) perceived as a man’s field. This is an entirely wrong concept as there is no aspect about engineering that a man can do better in than a woman. Engineering is an absolutely amazing field.

Given that it has the potential to directly impact the lives of people across the globe, makes me feel proud of being part of this community. So, I always utilise every possible opportunity to encourage others, especially girls into the field. Unfortunately, there is lot of misconceptions around the subject as well. I think that STEM subjects usually demand a bit more time for you to be able to understand and grasp the basic concepts but once you crack that, the rest is all just extensions that were derived from them.

As a school going kid, I also found science difficult till I gave it the time it demanded. But once I got the hang of it, I started to love the subject like no other and it was extremely rewarding.

What are some of the really interesting things you’ve worked on?

Since my time as an undergraduate student at UCL Engineering, I have had several opportunities to work on different projects. One of my favourite projects that I have worked on since the time I joined UCL is the robotic arm I made in my first year. It was something that I made from scratch for the first time, from designing the chassis to laser cutting the parts myself to building and coding it.

I have been actively involved with several student societies at UCL and this has also given me many opportunities to work on interesting things. Last year, the UCL Women Engineers’ Student Society, set up an International Mentoring Programme and I was one of the International Role Models to two girls from Ghana who were aspiring to become engineers.

The sessions I had with them through emails and video calls involved sharing my journey and experiences at university with them, clearing their doubts in the subjects, talking to them about the process involved in applying to universities etc.

The experience I had with these girls and the way we engaged in conversations just on the basis of our passion and enthusiasm towards the same field even though we never met in person was an amazing experience and it is something I hold very close to my heart even today. Over the past few years, I have also been the President of the UCL Robotics Society, a member of the Fleming Society and the UCL Women Engineer’s Student Society. 

Currently, I am on a Year in Industry and I work with big datasets and use the power of several machine learning tools to build predictors or tools that categorise topics within huge texts or conversations. My work here helps the company save millions of pounds a year and this means that the users get the products and services for cheaper prices.

What would you say is the biggest/greatest satisfaction you get from your career?

When you are studying a subject like engineering or working on a project and contributing towards a field that has the potential of revolutionising the lives of the entire world it makes you feel important.

At an individual level, we might just be contributing a little to the bigger picture but when you have the vision of the bigger picture there is a great sense of creative satisfaction and pride. And that vision or realisation of the impact my work will have on consumers and users in the near future is the biggest motivation and is the biggest satisfaction I get from my work.

Why is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) important and what does it mean to you?

Celebrating INWED is important because it makes me feel special. I feel that women engineers who make it in the field should be celebrated. I also believe that campaigns and efforts around a day like INWED is one of the most efficient ways to decrease the lack of diversity in engineering as it gives the women in the field a platform to exhibit their work and to inspire younger girls out there that unlike the popular belief, women can also have really successful careers in this field.

To me personally as a student, attending social events or the opportunity to network with other female engineers on INWED is one of the most inspiring experiences. Hearing about their amazing journeys and experiences, the different pathways that brought them here and the different areas that they work in are very inspiring and informative.

In fact, that’s the beauty of engineering. With so many options, so many routes that you could take and so many specialisations you could choose from, there is always something for everyone in the field of engineering. 

Elizabeth Donnelly, CEO at Women’s Engineering Network said: 

“The Women’s Engineering Society is delighted that the UK government is supporting International Women in Engineering Day as part of its engineering campaign, Engineering: Take A Closer Look.

INWED is now a global phenomenon with hundreds of events held across the world to celebrate and recognise women in engineering. The 2019 theme Transform the Future not only showcases the exciting career opportunities for women who want to make a difference to the world, but also honours those who founded WES a century ago and transformed engineering for women.”

Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: 

“The UK has a proud engineering heritage and the engineering sector contributes a quarter of the nation’s GDP. However, we have an ongoing skills shortage – and only 12% of UK professional engineers are women and only 8% are from BME backgrounds. It is vital that we tackle the lack of awareness within society – particularly among girls – about the scope, excitement and creativity of engineering careers, which makes it so much harder to address the shortage of skilled people.

“The Academy works closely with government and industry partners across the profession to promote engineering careers and to encourage people from all walks of life to join us in this fascinating and fulfilling career.”

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