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ATI & FlyZero colleagues share their Engineering Heroes this International Women in Engineering Day, 23rd June 2021.
23 June 2021 12:00:PM
Read time: 4 mins
Colleagues from across the ATI and the FlyZero project joined a virtual event to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) 2021 on Monday 21st June, as panellists shared their Engineering Heroes and discussed their hopes for the future of gender diversity in the sector.
INWED is an international awareness campaign which raises the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to women and girls in this exciting industry. The campaign began in the UK in 2014 as a national campaign from the Women’s Engineering Society and since then has received UNESCO patronage in 2016 and turned international in 2017.
Monday’s event was chaired by Bethany Hall, Technical Assistant - FlyZero and the panellists included four women and one male from across the ATI and FlyZero.
During the event, the panellists discussed retention of women in engineering, attraction of women into engineering, the importance of male allies and how we can all be engineering heroes. Opening the discussion, the panel Chair, Bethany Hall, noted:
INWED is about inclusion: meaning discussions are open to all genders and is for all women working in the sector, not just qualified engineers. Inclusivity also means acknowledging intersectionality when discussing the barriers we face – where it’s important to consider the implications that sexual orientation, race, class, disability, etc. have on people’s unique experiences too.
On retention and the challenges faced by women in engineering, Janet Collyer said:
In my engineering degree out of 300 only 6 were women, it’s getting better slowly as it’s closer to around 50 now but there’s work to do. My advice is not to be fazed by it, you can still walk into a room and command respect.
The panel also discussed the challenges of balancing family life with work. The panel agreed they’d like to see more men take up the parental leave that is available to them and that taking this time shouldn’t impact people’s careers. Mark Whillier said:
I come from a business that does offer a bit of parental leave, I think it’s important that we do go beyond just offering it to reassure people that it shouldn’t put your career on stop, it shouldn’t dent, it’s not a bad thing.
Conversation then moved on to inspiring the next generation of female engineers, and Debbie Thomas said:
You can’t be what you can’t see. We have to be out there so that people can see us and I think that will encourage more girls. The more women we have showcasing their careers to the younger generation, the more that’s going to encourage them, because they can relate to an individual and think ‘if they can I can’.
Emily Weeks shared her belief that engineering has a real opportunity with today’s younger people who are demanding careers which have a positive environmental impact:
Young people want their career to have a positive impact on society. Sustainability affects all of us so and engineering can affect that change in all kinds of different ways. It’s a golden opportunity to get young people interested, especially girls.
Katy Milne agreed that young women she has worked with through STEM outreach are motivated by a desire to help others and be creative. Katy said:
If we can help people understand that engineering is creative and that we are helping people, I think that would really help. The other thing is parents; they have a massive influence which means we can’t just focus on young people but parents too, and persuading them that engineering is a positive place for their daughters to be.
Closing the discussion, Bethany Hall thanked the panellists for their insights and contributions and commented:
This has been amazing and we’re really keen to continue discussions like this, thank you so much to the panellists for sharing your experiences. It’s clear we’re all passionate about supporting women in engineering to reach their potential, and in turn encourage more women and girls to enjoy a long and successful career in the sector.
Bethany Hall: I don’t think I had any engineering heroes before I began working in Engineering, other than my Dad who was an engineer and made it seem like an obvious career choice given how much I loved maths. Since joining the industry, I’ve been fascinated to learn more about some of the women who were so pioneering, such as Katherine Johnson (as shown in the film ‘Hidden Figures’) who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 after an incredible career at NASA, which included mathematical equations and data analysis for Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961.
Katy Milne: Emily Warren Roebling and Washington Roebling, who built the Brooklyn Bridge. During construction, Emily’s Husband John died of tetanus and his son Washington became bedridden with decompression sickness but Emily Roebling was ready to take on supervision of construction ensuring the bridge was completed and opened on 24th May 1883.
Mark Whillier: Former colleagues Phil Granger, Nick May and Chris Guster who through determination, innovation and change turned their expertise from hovercraft propellers to turboprop nacelles going on to secure three nacelles programmes for the business.
Debbie Thomas: My first manager Steve Burnage who set the scene for my experience in engineering. His support and positivity about engineering and giving people opportunities was really influential, including when the opportunity for me to join Airbus came along.
Janet Collyer: My first Engineering Hero is my father who I went with on site visits with, something you wouldn’t be able to do any more! He taught me that you never knew what you’d find but you’d enjoy it and you’d leave knowing it’s fun. My second is Ada Lovelace and how as a woman in engineering was never really fully accepted but never let it get her down and kept working, kept inventing and when the American Department of Defence named a programme after her that’s when I really got to know what she’d achieved.
Emily Weeks: My friend Hannah Nobbs, who’s an inspirational person working in the industry today. She is an aerospace engineer, and has worked for the RNLI’s future lifesaving innovation programme, and the CAA’s space policy unit. She has taken opportunities throughout her career and positively challenges gender-based assumptions along the way. She has also qualified as a helicopter pilot.
Find out more about International Women In Engineering Day at www.inwed.org.uk