Episode 2: Gender Diversity In Engineering – Advice, routes and role models
A panel discussion about gender diversity in the Engineering & Technology sectors – we hear about possible routes in, being a role model and how companies are improving diversity and inclusion
Dr Mark McBride-Wright – EqualEngineers (Host)
Dalia Ramos – Rolls-Royce
Sophie Buckley – AstraZeneca
Melanie Jackson – National Grid
Vimbai Fedrick – Defence Equipment & Support
Recorded at the EqualEngineers 2017 Graduate Careers fair in Birmingham on the 11th of November 2017.
Listen above or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
Mark: [00:00:00] So my name is Mark McBride-Wright and I am founder of EqualEngineers. Thank you for coming along today I really appreciate the support at our first inaugural fair. Please have a look round all the exhibitors downstairs for your career opportunities. To complement the day, as you know, we’ve got this panel discussion here focusing on gender in engineering and all aspects of gender as well and we’re really pleased that we’ve got great intersectionality on the table as well. We are going to explore all facets of diversity. So what I’m going to ask each of our great speakers to do (and thank you as well for joining us today) is I’m going to ask each of them to say, their name, where they work, what their job is and then if you could just spend five minutes each telling us about what job you do, why you do what got you into engineering and technology. What advice you might give people in the audience and some aspects around being a role model in the sector. The responsibility that that can bring. So if we maybe want to start with Sophie.
Sophie: [00:01:15] I’m Sophie. I work at AstraZeneca and I’m an I.T. global graduate associate. I think that’s the official title. So I got into I.T. from a job I had on a year out from uni. I worked at AQA I assume some of you might have heard of them. And that was just a sort of one off job and realised then that I was quite interested in sort of business improvement using technology. I went back to uni and decided (I was studying physics), I decided that’s not necessarily what I want to go into. So I went and applied for a job in I.T. and was successful. In terms of being a role model, I try to help out at events like this because I realised that, sometimes it can be quite male dominant and specifically science and engineering fairs. So I try to help out as often as I can so that there is a female representative from the company. But AstraZeneca itself is very very diverse. I haven’t experienced any issues whatsoever or any boundaries. There were four graduates brought on this year and there was two males two females. So it’s quite even and the team I’m working in, there are lots of females on the team as well. Also we’ve had an event recently where we got to speak to lots of the leadership team and they emphasise a lot about how they are family-orientated. I think sometimes being female you think that you’re going to be restricted if you want a family and we were speaking to an Executive Vice President who, has a family and obviously she’s very busy, but she definitely has the work-life balance sorted. I actually spoke to someone else who had finished the graduate scheme, but has a son, and did the graduate scheme with a toddler and she didn’t have any issues with it whatsoever. They were really lenient on, you know, letting her work from home if her son was ill or something.
Mark: [00:03:21] Do you think the burden…(I might ask questions actually as we go along)…do you think the burden is still expected to fall upon the woman in terms of child rearing etc in the workplace?
Sophie: [00:03:33] I think it’s it’s advancing definitely, but I think for me personally I feel like I would want to. And I think it just depends on each person and I don’t think in AstraZeneca they put any pressure on either if it’s the male that wants to to stay in and have the leave.
Mark: [00:03:53] I can see that the benefits are shared parenting. . .my husband and I are actually expecting right now via our surrogate, and so it’s funny when you challenge those stereotypes where they think, you know, gay men don’t have children…that’s not true. Thank you very much for that Sophie. Let’s move on now to Vimbai.
Vimbai: [00:04:12] Hello, I’m Vimbai Fedrick. I work for Defence Equipment and Support which is part of the Ministry of Defence and I am based at Abbey Wood which is the headquarters. My career actually started in the private sector. My first job with Rolls-Royce at Filton working as a control systems engineer. However, I did move on because my dreams were always to make my career development more diverse, so, I found a job at QinetiQ where I was working as an electrical and EMC trials officer on rotary aircraft. So I came from working on engines to working on aircraft. Subsequently I went to work for Defence Equipment and Support where we have all three domains land, air and sea so I have worked on ships and I have worked on more than one platform, in terms of aircraft and vehicles to support the front line. Currently, I am working as the engineering policy manager within the maritime sector and it is quite a diverse role and in terms of responsibility, it is a senior responsibility, and I find myself interacting a lot with outside with the private sector. So, for example, I do represent Defence Equipment and Support in many working groups as the expert, or just as someone nominated to represent maritime. For example, I am part of an electrical working group which consists of a lot of expertise within industry who work in the nuclear sector, and we work together to solve problems, standards, problems or even engineering solutions which affects both the civil and the defence sector.
Vimbai: [00:06:26] My inspiration to become an engineer really started when I was probably a bit older because, as I enjoyed maths and sciences and physics more than I did the other subjects…because I found writing essays…and trying to remember Daisy Veirs for example during history…it was quite difficult for me. I could work better tell words formulas and find solutions that way. So I did go to a careers advisor who said to me “have you thought of engineering?” And I was like “No, but it sounds interesting” and I’ve never looked back since.
Mark: [00:07:11] Amazing, so the engineering industry has been lucky to get your experience. So you spoke a bit about being a company liaison and being on working groups etc…does the company support you in a…is it discretionary effort, do you do that on top of your day job, or is it integrated with your time? And how do you find taking on those additional elements to your job.
Vimbai: [00:07:38] They’re very supportive. So, I speak to my line managers, some of them have been assigned through my line management and they paid for travel and the time is booked to my normal working time so I don’t have to go above and beyond. Also I’ve got a three year old at home so they are quite considerate. If I can’t make a certain working group due to home commitments. That’s fine. I can always catch up, everyone is flexible. And also I’d like to add that we’ve got a nursery where where I work where my son goes and it’s quite handy because my husband works there as well so all three of us go in in the morning together. We don’t have to stop off anywhere.
Mark: [00:08:23] That’s fantastic…I love that…All right…let’s move on to Dalia from Rolls-Royce.
Dalia: [00:08:32] Yes, my name is Dalia Ramos. I work in Rolls-Royce. I did my manufacturing engineering graduate scheme in Rolls-Royce, and after I finished that, we have something which is called Extended Development which is like the second part of the graduate scheme with a leadership route. So after we finish the normal graduate scheme we have the opportunity to join this towards a management position in the company. I’ve been in the company for almost three years. I’m currently based in the advanced blade casting facility which is one of the most automated and hightech and with novel processes in Rolls-Royce, it is just amazing. And, I am in charge of the new product introduction cell which is basically the area where we make the developments, and the trials, the improvements and also testing the new product. So, this area was basically for the manufacturing engineers and production as well in the side. So, on my day-to-day job, I mainly deal with their requests. I just make sure that all the processes comply with the required standards. But I also spend a lot of time dealing with the different areas of the company and on the site to coordinate all these jobs. And this is actually one of the reasons I choose engineering because, since I was a child I was very passionate about working with people, and for people, and I was always very outgoing and restless. But, at the same time, I had a passion for maths and physics. So I was in a dilemma of, if I want to do science, I have to be quieter and just be doing research and stuff like that. And then I found out that and actually in engineering, in the industry, I could combine my…my passion for science but also my passion for the people because the industry brings all this together. And, for example, I can also work for people when I can help develop the others in my job. So that’s something I definitely love because I get to work in a very high-tech environment, and we create amazing products, I see my day-to-day job reflected in the product, and I also get to work with a very diverse range of people and I always learn from the people and from all the things in my daily job. That’s very interesting.
Mark: [00:10:35] You mention science vs. engineering, do you think sometimes it’s a trade-off a student has to make on…because I remember being a student as well…before going to university actually…and thinking “right, I do science, maths etc..” And…do you feel like the “E” within “STEM” is the poorer relation to the science side. How did that help? How did you unravel when going between science or engineering…
Dalia: [00:11:05] …Or engineering. I think…I think they are not a separate thing. At the end of the day, they complement each other. In my case, I did mechatronics engineering which is a bit more focussed to the science, but after I finished my bachelor’s degree I wasn’t sure of going for a masters and PhD, or going to the industry so I took two years in the industry in a manufacturing company and I just decided to stay in the industry then I focused my masters in manufacturing engineering, which is more industry based. So I think the basics are exactly the same because there is..there is nothing that I don’t use in my day-to-day job, even when it’s more interacting with people and production and, like I said, the processes…the scientific thought…it’s always there.
Mark: [00:11:51] I think that comes with doing a technical degree, doesn’t it…
Dalia: [00:11:55] Yes..Definitely..
Mark: [00:11:55] It just keeps you there, that curiosity. Ok, Melanie, over to you.
Melanie: [00:12:01] Dalia, like yourself the curiosity of how things work and…how that got me into engineering originally. So I originally did…I graduated from industrial design. That was everything from mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, and product design and concept so that took me in to actually setting up a small engineering business. And then from that, working in motorsport. I found I could solve some problems that were actually in the day-to-day things…overcoming work hardening on materials through apply heat on components and keeping component life longer. So I actually solved some problems that reduced cost on that place. After that, I graduated in business and worked for National Grid. And in that, I actually started on a half engineering and half I.T. program. It was replacing our nationwide telecoms network. So we were building a lot of skilful engineering…we were building substation buildings for communication equipment, but also getting into a new area of I.T. So, like yourself Sophie, I am now working in I.T. And that problem, and that logical approach working in I.T and I.T problems has got me to where I am I am now. So a lot of problems that I encounter now are on the strategy and also encountering how you engage with a logical, solution-approach to the business problem, and the stakeholder-approach. So, that curiosity of what makes decisions, how to solve problems and that logical-approach I found very valuable. And it’s been a great experience working in National Grid and our commitment to getting women and promoting women. So we have women’s development programs Spring Board and Spring Forward. So, you get to make presentations on business problems and present them to leadership in the company. So that’s been a fantastic opportunity. And with our I.T. directorate it’s about including and getting the message of getting women into technology.
Melanie: [00:14:36] At the moment we’ve got a program called Girls To Tech which I’m plugging here at the moment [points to t-shirt]. So we go out into schools and go out to classes of girls and deliver I.T. sessions and I.T lessons, and get them to work at I.T. problems, and tackle some of the things that we think girls want to improve on. We get them to make presentations and improve their confidence, and talk and think through potential career paths in I.T….and also having great visibility in the company. I also work as a co-lead for one of our employee networks…our pride…our LGBT network which also…you help bring it together, you help give the inclusive career story in how to get people into those opportunities.
Mark: [00:15:31] Thank you very much. So as you can see, we’ve got a wealth of experience on the panel. We did start a little bit late so I do still want to give opportunity, though, for some questions from the audience. So, do any of you have anything that you might like to ask the panel whilst we’ve got them with us? [pause]
Mark: [00:15:51] Yes…if you could say your name, what you are studying, and why you are here?
Audience Member: [00:15:56] My name’s Tolani. I’m studying mechanical engineering. My question is, do you believe it’s harder for women to move to higher positions and, where you work, how many are there in senior positions?
Mark: [00:16:15] Someone want to take that?
Melanie: [00:16:16] I can say that we’ve just got our new Chief Information and Technology Officer is now a woman and our most senior director for the UK, our Executive Director response responsible the UK is a woman. So two of the biggest positions in our company are now held by women and we have good broad representation of women so we’re actively promoting those opportunities and getting and challenging the business. And we are actually doing this through reverse mentoring, so one of the things that we do in the company is get business leaders to sit with women and other diversity groups to say ‘this is how it looks working in our organisation being a women…these are the different challenges’ and we actually promote that as a leadership opportunity as well. So if you want to lead a team of women better, you have these. This is the perspective that you have in that organisation, and that helps develop those people along, and some of those people who’ve worked with those senior leaders have then gone to sponsor and mentor those women throughout the company. So, it is a challenge that we’re actively working on.
Mark: [00:17:32] It’s worth saying that the Women’s Engineering Society are here today so they have a stall downstairs so it’s definitely worthwhile connecting with them to ask around some of those areas. Does anyone else have something burning they’d like to add to that just just briefly?
Vimbai: [00:17:46] Yes I would just like to add that, yes, there are challenges, but I think this is a journey, and it’s a journey of change. And every change will always bring challenges, and challenges only bring improvements. Someone has to do it.
Mark: [00:17:59] All right. Sophie, if you could just…I think we will round off with your point.
Sophie: [00:18:04] Quite a positive thing to say actually. So my line manager is female. Her line manager is female. Then we get to the Chief Information Officer who is male and then his his manager is female as well. So I think it’s…AstraZeneca as a company is quite advanced in that area of making sure that there’s equal opportunities and that gender doesn’t hold anybody back.
Mark: [00:18:33] Perfect. Thank you very much everyone for coming along. Please do make use of the rest of your day at the fair. We’ve got careers information sessions at the back, and we’ve got obviously all the stalls. Can we just give a round of applause to our panelists and thank you to our panelists as well. Thank you so much.
[End of recorded material at 00:18:52]