This was our first visit to a local school; Notre Dame School and our main aim was to try and give young women an idea of exactly what engineering entails so that they can make informed decisions about their futures.
We arrived and were taken to a rather large and daunting assembly hall. Within minutes the hall was filling with female AS level students. After an amazing introduction to the Women in Engineering Society from the Head of Sixth Form we started the first part of our talk. This covered what engineering actually is and what kind of projects you can get involved in when you have an engineering background. The second part aimed to give the students an idea of the career paths that have been taken by our members. I talked initially about my journey from being a pure mechanical engineer through to the combination of this background with biology and my transition to becoming a biomedical engineer. This was followed by a great talk by one of our undergraduate members, Naomi Frazer, who spoke about her interest in sustainable manufacturing and renewable energy. Wang Jaiyang, a biomedical undergraduate student then spoke about the reasons why she chose to study biomedical engineering and why it is important for women to get involved in such an exciting field. Finally Carmen Ho, a PhD researcher spoke about her experiences in the field of automatic control from working in research and also industry and really engaged the students with her examples.
everybody knows what a doctor does and what a teacher does but nobody really understands what an engineer does
The next part of the day was up to the students, if they wanted to stay and ask questions they could but if not they could go back to their tutor groups……this was the moment of truth, had we engaged these girls enough to want to know more about engineering? The answer – yes….to a degree! Several students came to us and said that they didn’t know what engineering was all about but had found the talk very useful. One girl in particular had wanted to do chemistry but also apply it practically and didn’t quite know what course would enable her to do this. When we had spoken about chemical engineering she realised that this was potentially the career path that she had been looking for. However, although we had created interest in engineering the percentage of girls who stayed behind in the hall was small and it was clear that there is still much more to do to actively engage female students with engineering. Talking to staff at the school, many thought that more should be done to inform younger students about what engineering actually is so that they have time to develop a real understanding and interest in the subject. A staff member said to me ‘everybody knows what a doctor does and what a teacher does but nobody really understands what an engineer does’. Unfortunately this is true and as a result we are losing the opportunity to enlist the minds of great females into the area. So, by the end of the session it was clear that we have a big challenge ahead of us to encourage more young women into engineering but it is one in which the Women in Engineering Society is willing to rise to!
If you are interested in having the WiE society talk at your school and would like more information please contact us via: firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also follow us on Twitter @EngWomen