The theme for International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) 2018 is raising the bar. However, perhaps it’s time to use this bar to quash a few misconceptions instead. Here, Emma Cygan, design and development engineer at steering system supplier Pailton Engineering, does just this.
‘Women are only good at soft skills’
Stereotypical gender roles are heavily debated, with some women reaching adulthood with an inbuilt, subconscious idea that they must find a career that uses their communication skills and empathy. The reality is, interaction skills aren’t gender-exclusive and is something both women and men should strive for.
That said, if you are particularly affluent in the soft skills department, don’t suppress this quality. These skills are highly sought after by employers, as they are often required to enable the harder, more technical skills. How can you design a novel steering component, for example, if you can’t communicate effectively with your customer?
‘Women can’t reach top positions in engineering’
From my experience, this isn’t the case. Women should be confident that they have the same potential for career progression as their male equivalents. So far in my career, I have progressed from an apprentice, to my current role as a Design and Development engineer. In the future, it will continue to be my skills that determine how quickly I will move up the job ladder, not my gender.
The Women in Engineering annual Top 50 Women in Engineering under 35validates this point. Many of the women in this list are in senior and managerial roles, even at a relatively young age. In the midst of a national skills gap, it’s women like these that have leveraged the opportunity to make a name for themselves.
Statistically, there are more men at the top of the engineering industry, but that’s inevitable, providing there are more men at the bottom. Initiatives like INWED will change this for the better and help more women see a career in engineering as a viable and rewarding option.
‘Women aren’t supported by their employers’
Wrong again. At Pailton Engineering, I am currently being sponsored to study for an engineering bachelor’s degree at Coventry University. This is a part time course that requires me to attend classes two evenings a week. I will also be expected to carry out an industry focused dissertation, researching a specific area of engineering.
If Pailton Engineering wasn’t invested in me, or didn’t see a future with me as a key decision maker in the company, then this investment wouldn’t have been made.
INWED 2018 focuses on raising the bar for women in engineering, but before we can heighten expectations for female engineers, there are still a plenty of myths and misconceptions to quash about working in the industry.
I hope I’ve raised the bar for other women to start an engineering career, even if I did use this bar to obliterate the myths that are currently circulating — someone had to do it!