The editorial team return for the latest edition of The Manufacturer Podcast - how far have we come in creating equal opportunities for women in the sector? We reflect on this today, as we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day 2022
Hi there listener, after a few weeks break we’re back to bring you a special podcast episode for International Women in Engineering Day. We’ve got three excellent interviews from women who share some of their experiences, and give us an insight in to what they believe needs to happen to level the playing field on gender within the sector. You’ll also hear what these various businesses and individuals are doing to change perceptions and create equal opportunities for women in manufacturing and engineering.
We have Elizabeth Donnelly, CEO of WES, (Women’s Engineering Society) Hilary Leevers, CEO of Engineering UK and Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee, Senior Flight Engineer at BAE Systems who also runs her own business, AviateHer.
We hope you enjoy this special episode – happy International Women in Engineering Day!
Elizabeth Donnelly on the number of women in engineering
“We don’t have many female engineers in the UK and this is historic, even 50 years we had 0.5% and 10 years ago we had about 9%. I think this is because women are talented at so many things and they can make choices. If they are good at science, they may not go to engineering, they may go into medicine or research.
“Or if they’re good at science, and English and languages, then they go to something else. So, all of that plays into it but it’s also to do with some of the stereotypical role models, and the view that people have of engineering, we don’t see a lot of engineering on television, in fiction, we don’t see in a murder mystery that one of the characters who might be under suspicion is an engineer or works at an engineering company.
“We unfortunately don’t teach engineering yet as a subject in school so a lot of young people don’t understand what engineering is, they think of it as roads, electrics and cars but it’s so much more than that. Engineers will spend more time at their desk, than in protective equipment on site. Here at the Women’s Engineering Society, we like to look at engineering as being something that’s about teamwork, creativity, and collaboration, rather than looking at it from a messy, dirty aspect. We believe that engineering is all about problem solving and of course, women solve problems every minute of every day”
Hilary Leevers on opportunities for women in engineering
“We are seeing more young women move into engineering. Things are definitely improving, but I would like it to improve a lot quicker.
I hope that there will be a positive feedback loop, where young women and girls that are thinking about future careers look into our sector and see more women and relatable role models. Where it just feels like a more obvious move.
“The more that we improve that representation, perhaps the faster we are able to get that rate of improvement, I really hope that’s the case. When you look at our sectoral data, it is increasing slowly. We now estimate there is 16.5% of females in the engineering workforce, that’s a 6% increase over an 11 year period. That’s really slow, but there is definitely a positive movement.
“We work so hard to make sure young people had these learning experiences about what engineering is, what it’s like to work in tech and that the role models we use are relatable. We’re trying to make sure they see young women, as well as people from all different demographic groups in those experiences. And when we choose role models to highlight in our career case studies or careers panels that we might have at different events, it’s something we’re very mindful of.”
Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee on changing perceptions around female engineers
I set up AviateHer (Krystina’s business) during lockdown. I’ve always collected pin badges – whenever I’ve gone on holiday or somewhere, I always pick one up. I was looking for a particular pin badge that I had in my mind on Etsy, but I couldn’t see it. So I thought to myself, could I get this made and sell it? And that’s what I did. It basically stems from when I tell people that I’m an engineer, the standard response that I get is that I don’t look like an engineer. For that reason, the first pin badge that I designed said, “this is what an engineer looks like.”
“Part of the proceeds went towards the women at Women’s Engineering Society, because I wanted something good to come out of it as well. They sold out within less than 48 hours, which really surprised me. And then I had lots of messages from people asking if I could you do one for a scientist. Could I do one for a pilot, mathematician, physicist and so on.
Now it’s expanded to something that I never imagined it would be. I never imagined that I’d be running a small business as well as my day job. But it’s something I really enjoy – I enjoy the messages that I get from people who’ve said they’re going to wear their badge at a conference where they were was told that they don’t look like an engineer or maybe wear it on their lab coat. I hope it acts as a really good conversation starter. I’ve sold over 2000 pins so far, which I didn’t expect and raised over £3000 for different charities, so I’m glad that something good could come out of it as well.”
If you liked this, why not listen back to our International Women’s Day Special