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To support the National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) on 23 June 2016, the Engineering Council’s female Board Members share their thoughts and experiences as women working in and on behalf of the engineering community. We have also spoken to a handful of talented and inspiring women about their careers, achievements and how they discovered engineering.
Sam Hubbard is System Engineer at Urenco UK. She started out as an apprentice in 1993, studying Electrical and Instrumentation through UPM Shotton where she worked for 21 years. In 2000 Sam won the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year award and the WISE Excellence award in 2001 and has undertaken various roles with IET.
She joined the Engineering Council Board in 2014 and sees it as a great opportunity and experience to work with multiple engineering bodies and institutions to support the delivery of Engineering Council’s work.
As a former apprentice, what do you think are the advantages of doing an Apprenticeship for young women?
"I loved being an apprentice! It is my preferred way to learn with some theory but mostly with tools in your hand taking things apart and finding out how things work. Unlike going to college or university you are paid to learn and it was a brilliant environment and I had a great deal of fun. As a female in industry I was more visible and believe that enhanced my career. Helping people is a big part of engineering, helping solve problems using ingenuity, the desire to help is a great female trait."
Why do you think so many less women choose to pursue a career as an engineer or technician, compared to men?
"I still don’t understand why less women go into engineering compared to men, as many girls excel in maths and science subjects. I just believe they don’t know what is available to them and how interesting, diverse and exciting engineering can be. This can only be down to a lack of female role models and visibility as this isn’t the case the whole world over and the girls and women I have met have been very driven and capable apprentices, technicians, engineers and managers. There are many activities currently to grab the female attention so I hope this changes in the future!"
Jane Cannon is Director, Security Industry Engagement at the Home Office, bringing Government and industry together to solve security and resilience problems in the UK and in export markets. Her numerous prominent roles include as a Partner in EY’s Advisory team, Group Managing Director for Lockheed Martin UK Information Systems & Global Solutions and Managing Director of QinetiQ’s Security Solutions business.
Jane is a passionate supporter of the engineering profession and delighted to support the activities of the Engineering Council to help the UK maintain its world-leading standards of engineering excellence.
What is being done, and what do you think could be done, to achieve greater numbers of female engineers and technicians in the UK?
“There are some fantastic initiatives in place, such as National Women in Engineering Day, the WISE Campaign and IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards. These are all working hard to attract more girls and young women into this important and rewarding profession, and in particular to support returning mothers.
“But we urgently need to do more to break through the invisible barrier that seems to stop more women from entering the profession. I believe employers are particularly important in this process, by fostering positive work cultures and recruitment and parental leave policies.
“However, it is important that we all do our bit - parents, teachers, STEM ambassadors, the media and the whole engineering community - to support this work and break down any false pre-conceptions that engineering is a career more suited to men. I have had the privilege of working with many brilliant and inspiring female engineers that we can hold up as role models.”
Carolyn Griffiths is a senior rail professional with extensive experience spanning from shop floor technician to Board Director. She has established new rail systems, managing major projects in the UK and overseas, and is currently a Board Director for Irish Rail. Prior to this, she was Chief Inspector of the UK's Rail Accident Investigation Branch, which she created and led, during which time she reported directly to the Secretary of State for Transport. Cranfield University has awarded her an Honorary Doctorate for her contribution to the rail industry.
Carolyn has been on the Engineering Council Board since 2014 and is keen to promote and further develop professional standards in engineering.
Why would you recommend engineering as a career for women?
“We need more talented engineers, both male and female. I have never felt deterred from furthering my engineering ambitions and would not hesitate to thoroughly recommend engineering as a career for women. I have been able to develop and progress my career whilst also enjoying immensely rewarding jobs - both in the UK and overseas. Engineering plays an essential role in so many aspects of life and the opportunities for engineers are creative, varied and in my experience always interesting.”
Helen Cavill CEng MIMechE is a Process Improvement Manager at RPC M&H Plastics in Beccles, Suffolk. She has been an active STEM ambassador for many years and is the winner of the WES Prize at the 2015 IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year awards.
“I really enjoy working with schools and public speaking. It is so rewarding when a few months later I hear about how a student has signed up for an engineering course as a direct result of my interaction.”
Juliette Scholes EngTech TMIET is an Electrical Engineer at Hoare Lea. She designs electrical services and, when construction is underway, she goes on site to ensure that installed services match the design.
“In my experience I have only seen positive effects on my career as a woman engineer.
“As I am unavoidably conspicuous as a female Electrical Engineer I make sure I earn everything that comes my way. Commitment and a strong work ethic should be recognised above all else, regardless of any factors that may classify you as a minority. If you transcend these labels, they can never be used to question the success your hard work will ultimately bring.”
Eileen Russell CEng MIMechE is Head of Engineering and Maintenance at Strathclyde Partnership for Transport’s (SPT) Glasgow Subway Operations. She is responsible for approximately 80 staff who maintain the fleet of trains, the electrical power system, signalling and control systems, tunnels and track of the Glasgow Subway system.
“My job is exactly the same as it would be for a male engineer. I feel respected and supported as part of the engineering team and I’ve been lucky enough throughout my career to work for companies and managers who have given me excellent opportunities for personal development, including training and coaching.”
Bethany Holroyd EngTech MICE, a former apprentice, is a Civil Engineering Technician for Moray Council in Scotland. She inspects and manages repairs to bridges, supervises construction sites and as Harbours Asset Manager, she also looks after six council run harbours.
“I especially love my harbours work and being by the sea, although not when it is bad weather and the waves are crashing over the sea walls! I love maintaining these structures that have been here for hundreds of years. It’s a very interesting area of engineering to work in.”
Helen Randell MEng CEng MICE is a Senior Engineer at Buckingham Group Contracting Limited. She has worked on several sustainability projects, including development work on Energy from Waste plants, and is the 2015 winner of the Karen Burt Award.
“I feel extremely fortunate that my love of problem solving has formed the basis of my career. It is so rewarding to have the opportunity to share my experiences with other young women and to know that some have been inspired to join the exciting and ever changing world of engineering, where we really can make a difference.”
NWED is an annual international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus on the incredible career opportunities available to girls in this industry. It was established by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and is in its third year. To read more, please visit nwed.org.uk