Engineering offers incredible career possibilities for women but companies and schools need to do more to inspire the next generation of female engineers.
According to engineers working for Knauf Insulation, schools need to encourage more girls to see the potential of science subjects; companies need to demystify the industry and women need the belief and insight to understand that engineering can provide an exciting and fulfilling career.
‘Being successful is about being inspired’
To celebrate UNESCO’s International Women in Engineering Day we canvassed the opinion of nine engineers to discuss how women can achieve their potential in a male-dominated industry and what needs to be done to encourage more women to join the profession.
Throughout this week we will be profiling full interviews with each of our colleagues on our LinkedIn and Twitter pages. In line with the aims of the Women’s Engineering Society, we hope their stories will help more women realise their potential.
In the words of Michelle Obama, “Success isn’t about how your life looks to others. It’s about how it feels to you. Being successful isn’t about being impressive, it’s about being inspired. That’s what it means to be true to yourself.”
How to inspire a new generation of women engineers
Demystify the job
The stories of engineering involving heavy work and long hours need to be demystified, says Margaux Dorthu, a Process Engineer at our Visé plant. Rebecca Wilde, a Process Engineer at Process Support and Development agrees. “I think there is a preconception that the construction industry is a mucky, hands-on and labour-intensive industry and there needs to be a drive to show girls this is not the case.”
“Young students are usually not exposed to engineering and industrial environments in contrast with other professions, so the perception that the engineering world is hostile for women is still ongoing,” says new graduate engineer Anastasia Parlali. “Construction companies could initiate more student visits for young students — especially women — to become familiar with engineering.” Ayşe Okumuş, a Maintenance Planner at our Eskişehir plant in Turkey, agrees. “Turkish companies in construction, machinery and metals are accepted as male and don’t employ women. There is one that hires women — their motto is “a she for a he” — this is a major step forward and I’m hoping it will become widespread.”
Keep motivation high and your learning constant. “I have a strong belief in women in engineering,” says Giuliana Rivituso, an International Process Engineer at our new Illange plant in France. “Circumstances can be difficult at times, so we need to make a clear difference from the beginning and show how capable we can be.” Also, expect the unexpected and embrace new learning opportunities. You never know where it will take you. Karina Berlig, a Production Manager at our Bernburg site, started her career as a nutritionist working in food production. “I always enjoyed analytical work. Initially I took over laboratory management at Bernburg plant and then was offered an opportunity to become production manager.”
Camilla Saltini, an International Process Engineer at our Novi Marof site says: “Be yourself, you are an engineer just like your male colleagues. Be confident in your abilities and proud to be a woman in this field. It is true gender stereotypes still exist and as a young woman, it may be tougher to gain colleagues’ trust but I believe that this mindset can change based on your attitude.”
Learn to stand out
“Being in a male-dominated industry means it is easier to standout as long as you remain confident and true to who you are,” says Eleanor Brown, an Assistant Product Manager at our St Helens Plant. “If we all think and behave the same we will never challenge the status quo, so anything that embraces diversity and different ways of thinking, breeds new ideas. Be proud of who you are.”
Seeing is believing
All our engineers believe that women can reach the same level of achievement as men, but it is vital that companies show examples of women working at high level and share experiences. “Tell women that it is possible to reach positions that were previously occupied by men,” says Camilla. “Show examples of women working in this field and share experiences. Explain that their help is fundamental to achieving new goals and gender diversity.”
Break down stereotypes
“Encouraging women into the industry needs to begin at school as there are so many gender stereotypes about jobs starting at an early age,” says Eleanor. “I had never considered production, construction or engineering until I fell into the industry. I’m sure seeing or talking to a female engineer when I found my love for physics would have made me consider it as an option.”
Find a mentor
“Find yourself a mentor you can talk to and who can push you,” says Rebecca. “They do not have to be female — some of my best mentors were male — but I got to know plenty of strong female engineers who guided me in the right direction.” Jana Lovásová, an HSE & Systems Manager at our Krupka plant, agrees. She says her career was supported by a supervisor who trusted her. “Of course, you also have to trust yourself, have a good team of people around you and be sure to be yourself.”