For International Women in Engineering Day 2019 we brought a few of our female engineers together to learn about their experiences working in technical roles in FCO Services.
The conversation centred on the significant changes for women in engineering over the last thirty years, and what remains to be achieved.
I think there’s much more acceptance that women are able to do the job. I think attitudes have changed quite significantly, as female engineers are not as unusual these days, but obviously we’re still in the minority.
Each participant became an engineer for a different reason: a love of maths, the variety of roles and practical work are all things that attracted them. However, there was one common theme. They all get great satisfaction from finding the solution to a problem and having a tangible end product.
One of the key themes discussed was the split within engineering between ‘problem solving’ and ‘practical application’. Participants suggested that the stereotypical idea of an engineer is someone doing practical work, and there is little acknowledgement of the analytical, problem solving skills involved. The group saw this as one of the key reasons why women don’t consider a career in engineering.
All the problem solving, getting to solutions, working with others to get there, all the things that many women are particularly strong at, are not the things that are drawn out when people think ‘engineering’.
When talking about how to increase the number of women in the industry, all participants agreed there should be a focus on educating school children about the realities of engineering.
I think a lot of the teachers and parents have misconceptions, which filter through to the kids. And so I think children aren’t getting the career’s advice from people who are in the engineering field, to actually explain what engineers do on a day to day basis. When you break it down, a lot of girls actually then find it more interesting, and hadn’t really realised that that’s what engineers do.
The group underlined the need to educate young people about the actual components of the role of an engineer, and to promote opportunities for them to learn about the world of engineering. It also highlighted the impact that flexible working could have on women in the industry.
Working practices have changed, that makes it much easier to be a female engineer and have a family. At FCO Services there’s been a big move towards flexible working, which should encourage more women to look to apply.
After discussing a range of topics, the group had a positive message for young women and girls who are interested in engineering.
I’d tell them to just go for it. Don’t be afraid of the fact that you’re going to be there with all boys…You’re still absolutely going to smash it, there’s no reason why you can’t do as well as them, or even better. Go for it.