Why More Girls Should Choose a Career in Electronics
It’s International Women in Engineering Day on June 23rd which is a global awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering. There are so many amazing career opportunities available to girls in the engineering industry (and many achievements of female engineers to celebrate) yet the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe – less than 10%. Although there is little gender difference in the take up of and achievement in core STEM GCSE skills, only about 20% of students studying A level physics are girls and that percentage hasn’t changed in 25 years! It got me thinking about my own experiences and route into engineering.
Keeping it in the family
My entry into engineering was possibly inevitable. My father was an Electrical Distribution Engineer and there were days when I would go out to work with him during the holidays. My mother held an OND in Engineering so you could say that engineering and science fiction were always present in our household and, as I worked through school, it became clear that maths and physics were also strong subjects for me. Science and maths were compulsory at my school in some amount up to the age of 16. However, after the first year, you had to choose either domestic crafts (home economics and needlecraft), or heavy crafts (woodwork and metalwork). My mother said she could teach me all the cooking and sewing I needed at home, so I chose heavy craft – and I was one of only two girls.
My mother was a strong inspiration for my decision to go into engineering – she would tell me stories of how hard it was for her to get a job after achieving her OND, yet she still felt the career was worth the fight. She is also such a strong independent woman, and was determined for me that whatever career I chose, I would have her support. Although I am sure that at the time I was not aware just how many aspects of engineering there were, when it came to choosing a degree, I selected courses that leant towards mechanical rather than electrical engineering and graduated some years later from Brunel University in Manufacturing Engineering.
Challenges and barriers for female engineers
I was always aware that engineering was an uncommon choice for a woman but fortunately I never felt there were any barriers at the time. In my first job at Lucas Diesel Systems, I never felt that I was being treated differently to the men – I certainly got my hands dirty when they did!
It’s possible there were hidden barriers that were not visible to me but generally I’ve found that once I get into a role, my skills have been enough for people to realise that I know what I’m doing.
A dynamic, varied and enjoyable industry
At Harwin, my current role comprises of a number of activities, including; technical support for customers and sales teams, technical marketing content (including the product catalog and the product database behind the website), and product life-cycle communications from launch to obsolescence. This unique position developed from 9 years of experience in the Design Team, a good memory for the whole product portfolio, and good writing/proof-reading skills. My job is dynamic, and very varied and so is the electronics industry as a whole. The opportunities are many, which makes electronics an ideal industry for any STEM student. I would definitely recommend it to the current generation of school-leavers – there are certainly more roles than ever! The pace of progress in electronics is also unrelenting which means it is a really interesting industry to be a part of.
Advice for girls considering a career in electronics
I’d have to say to any girls thinking of a career in the electronics industry: Be yourself. Be independent. And don’t EVER listen to anyone that says “girls don’t do that” – no matter what it is! Don’t assume that you will meet barriers along the way and it will be too hard and therefore not worth the effort – no job is easy, and sometimes the barriers aren’t there. And it is so worth the effort and I have many days where I get a real sense of achievement – for myself and for Harwin. I have no regrets about the choices I made in my career.
by Wendy Jane Preston, Technical Marketing Engineer at Harwin