One of our graduates, Sophie Dent, shares her perspectives of being a female engineer on International Women in Engineering day
I studied Mechatronics Engineering in university which was a very male-dominated degree, so I thought I was prepared for the challenges that would come with a career within the engineering industry – starting at BAE Systems. As it turns out, the world of work felt very different - despite there being similar challenges. I felt like I needed to be accepted and I wanted people's approval far more than I ever did in university. This confirmed to me that diversity is an issue affecting the whole engineering industry – but it was refreshing to join an organisation with a real appetite to try and do something about it, and encourage more women into the profession.
I'm on BAE Systems' graduate scheme and it’s a great way of seeing a lot of the business. We are encouraged to set up projects that not only help BAE Systems, but the industry as a whole. It’s great to have the freedom to be innovative and help make a difference.
Talking about BAE Systems' grad scheme
I was quite taken back at being the only female engineering graduate in my intake. I try not to let this affect me but as an introvert, I admit I have to work hard to maintain a confident and empowering work 'face'. I think this has helped me so far and would be a 'top tip' for any woman in this industry! I also put a lot of energy into working with colleagues to try and change our situation for the better – which is how our 'Guides in Engineering' or ' G-Eng.' project was born.
G-Eng. focuses on encouraging and inspiring young women – which is so important. We need to let young women know engineering is an option for them, and they are equally as capable of being engineers as their male peers. This is something I feel strongly about as I was once told at uni that I'd get a job handed to me on a silver platter 'just because I'm a woman'. Whilst my own experience at work has been of a meritocracy, this comment has always stuck with me. It’s an idea I want to stamp out - not only for my own success and career, but for the next generation.
The fact that our G-Eng. project won one of BAE Systems' Gold Chairman's Awards – the highest level of recognition within our company - just shows how receptive BAE Systems is to the issue of diversity, and how committed it is to ensure diversity is addressed. I believe that the inclusion part of the diversity and inclusion network we have in BAE Systems is critical as you can attract as many diverse individuals as you like, but if you don't provide an environment where they feel included and comfortable, they'll leave.
Knowing that your employer really supports you means such a lot when you're starting out in your career, and I'm lucky enough to have had great support from colleagues - male and female – across all ranks of the business. It always seems to take me by surprise when someone who isn’t a female engineer believes in me and stands up for me, but I’ve realised recently that it affects those around you too. If you have a team, or even a company, that is full of people who are all exactly the same and think alike, then where will the innovation come from?