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International Women in Engineering Day: Identify your strengths, and fight for it!

Women make just 15% of the STEM workforce in the UK, compared to 40% in the rest of Europe*. Right now, the UK needs to make the most of its home potential as it faces the uncertainties of Brexit and a shortage of new engineers.

 

It starts early. Many girls grow up thinking that STEM careers are not suitable for them despite their achievements, and tend to switch off at a young age.

The solution is to nurture talent in early education. Parents and teachers should encourage girls to not be afraid of choosing a STEM path. The media needs to break down negative stereotypes, create empowering images of women in STEM, and female role models (not just Amy in The Big Bang Theory).

Educating and hiring more women in STEM is a good attempt to solve the gap but discrimination still prevails from our culture and sexism. Women are still poorly represented throughout the talent pipeline and do not often hold leadership roles. Even in the best tech companies, only 29% of leadership positions are represented by women.

But why is it so important to have a diverse team?

Diverse teams perform better to achieve technical innovation. Women are as much capable as men in solving problems, and bring a wealth of diversity in thought, experiences, personality and flair. Women know how to triumph over adversity; they have conquered a bias in society by studying in a male-dominated environment.

I love the flexibility and diversity that engineering offers. I first went on to study Aerospace Engineering and then completed an MSc in Engineering with Finance. I have inspected gas turbines, worked in aircraft maintenance, (albeit unsuccessfully) created a coding start-up and now manage railway projects!

I enjoy doing STEM activities, and would like to be a role model not just for girls, but boys too. It is exciting to think that my input at WSP is being valued not because I am a woman, but because of what I can bring to the table.

So, to aspiring girls: get involved early, join support groups.  Identify your strengths, and fight for it, because you are an asset to society. Mostly, look at other women as your friends, not your competition.

We need to show that working in STEM is about having the power to make a difference. Because without women, science is missing out on half of the world’s talent.

*source: Office of National Statistics

Maysun Hassanaly is an assistant engineer in the rail team at WSP. 

Interested in a career in engineering? Join our team here.