IWD: Engineering in a man’s world

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Student Circuit teamed up with Thales, speaking to three incredible women from the team: Robyn Dewar, Sytems Engineering Apprentice; Ifeoma Noelin Okolie, Safety Engineering Specialist; and Brenda Alonso, Safety Authority for Thales’ Flight Avonic and Training Simulation businesses.

In this International Women’s Day special, we discuss what it’s like to be an engineer in what many would consider a man’s world. We dive into the very best of being a woman in STEM.

What does IWD mean to you?

For Robyn, IWD is about celebrating engineering and all the different things they bring to the industry: “It’s been such a male dominated industry for so long and there are so many great initiatives going on.”

Ifoema believes IWD is a chance to celebrate the huge difference women make to society. “I would argue that every day should be International Women’s Day because women make great contributions to our society and there shouldn’t just be one day we celebrate that. However, it does help raise awareness.”

It’s important that women make their voices heard and highlight their significant contributions within STEM.

Agreeing with Robyn and Ifoema, International Women’s Day is about celebrating women and the progress made towards equality and equity, but recognising that there is still work that needs to be done in this area.

Debunking gender career bias

Ifoema explained: “It’s important to debunk gender career biases because women and men are able to pursue any career they set their mind to, especially ones they have natural aptitude towards. Societal and economic barriers should not bias what career paths that people should pursue.

“As someone who was affected by gender career bias early on in my life growing up in Nigeria in a society whereby men and women were encouraged to pursue certain career paths, and then falling victim to that bias for four years, I know the first-hand impact.”

Gender career bias must be eliminated from society as much as possible.

Strong male and female characters are essential to validate that women have a place within the industry.

The impact of teachers

The power of teachers is often overlooked. With so many students explaining the impact their teacher has had on their decision to pursue STEM as a career is amazing. If it wasn’t for the incredible education system allowing students to understand the broader STEM careers available, we wouldn’t haven’t half as many students studying STEM, and the teachers should get the recognition they deserve.

It’s important for teachers and parents to be educated on the different routes into studying STEM subjects, including degree apprenticeships and apprenticeships, so they can promote STEM careers.

Ifoema said: “We can underestimate the role that teachers play in encouraging and ensuring that role models are shown to young girls and young people in general.”

Work-life balance

Robyn entered the apprenticeship route straight from school.

The workload element was challenging in terms of working a 9-5 job five days a week, spending one day a week at university. “It was something you have to find the time and prioritise your time efficiently. I cant stress enough the importance of having those contacts supporting you.”

It was exciting to be in the work environment and come across something that had been taught during class, and put that into practice.

“It’s definitely an interesting path that I’d recommend to anybody, especially people who are keen to jump into the world of work instead of the traditional route of university.”

Listen to the International Women’s Day special of STEM Minds to hear more from these incredible.

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