NAA Member News: Women in Engineering at CAL
Chloe Thomas and Kara McDougall, two LJMU Design Engineering Placement students at CAL, talk about their experience of being women in engineering and how they believe more women can be inspired to enter the industry…
What do you think can be done to rectify the gender imbalance within the engineering industry?
Kara McDougall (K): The stigma around engineering being a male dominated industry needs to be removed: Debbie Sterling, the founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, is brilliant: She has developed a range of interactive children’s toys which challenge gender stereotypes, including the world’s first girl engineer character: This is a great step forward and something that should be developed further.
Chloe Thomas (C): Schools need to offer more engineering or design-based courses: There is no point in creating a passion for engineering if girls can’t continue it during their schooling life: I think female-based events would help this too, showing young engineers that females are ‘allowed’ in the industry and to nurture a passion.
K: Girls don’t seem to know how many different types of engineering opportunities are out there: Most of it is done on CAD (computer aided design) systems nowadays, however I know a lot of girls that still think engineering is a ‘get your hands dirty’ industry.
C: When we go to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) events the girls love it as much as the boys do, it’s just that the opportunities available aren’t pushed or advertised as much to them, which they should be!
What originally inspired you to enter the world of engineering?
K: My dad is a mobile engineer and my grandad was a welder: I always wanted to know how things were made: I loved IKEA and building blocks, as well as Art Deco: It was a passion in my life as long as I can remember.
C: I did a graphics and art GCSE and then Product Design A-level: It wasn’t until I went to a University Open Day that I realised engineering had so many more potential paths that I could take.
K: I think we realised that doing a BSC instead of a BA in Design would be much more useful to us because it involves more maths and physics: That’s why I chose engineering.
What has been your favourite aspect of your design engineering placement at CAL International to date?
K: When we first started at CAL, we were trained on the new CAD design system: This was great fun and meant I could start designing my own products from the beginning: We also get to speak and interact with people from all sectors of the company, meaning we have gained skills in both mechanical and electrical engineering design.
C: Exactly! When we first started, we both had limited mechanical engineering knowledge and CAL has taught us so much: The team here has also helped us develop key communication skills: When we design products we are brought into meetings for real-life critique and we are treated like fully-fledged engineers: This has been such a valuable experience for us.
Finally, what would you say to any young girls wanting to get into engineering?
C: I would encourage them to speak to people in the industry, this helps hugely and is so inspiring: Try to get work experience with companies like CAL that are team focused: If you want to do an engineering course, don’t be put off by any posters or statistics that may be male focused, it is being offered to females as much as it is males!
K: You assume you might not be meant to be there because you’re female.
C: If you want to study engineering, do it! There are so many options for you and it’s really exciting!
K: Hopefully, as more women enter the engineering industry, society will become less judgemental: Do it for your passion of engineering and don’t let any gender stereotypes stop you!