Today (Friday, June 23) Wrekin Products is taking part in International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), a day used every year to focus attention on careers available to women in engineering and to celebrate the achievements of women engineers.
According to research done by the Women’s Engineering Society last year, only 9% of the engineering workforce is female.(1) and only 6% of registered engineers and technicians (i.e. CEng, IEng, EngTech) are women.(2)
Wrekin Products, leading UK designer, manufacturer and supplier of specialist products for the civil engineering industry, is marking INWED by chatting to one of its women engineers and sharing what she says about women in engineering with others.
Samantha Evans has been working for Wrekin Products for two years as an Industrial Design Engineer. Her many and varied responsibilities include design and development of new and existing products, creating 3D CAD models and 2D engineering drawings for production, and running Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to analyse potential weaknesses within a design.
Having gained three A levels including Product Design, she went on to study for a BA (Hons) in Product Design at the University of Derby.
Sammy admits a Product Design degree was not something she had always wanted to do. “At GCSE, I did Graphic Design and wanted to carry this forward into Sixth Form. However, Graphic Design wasn’t an option, they offered Product Design instead, so I chose that.
“It wasn’t until I had the exposure to product design that I realised it was exactly what I wanted to do. It was about finding a solution to a problem, and designing a product to solve it.
“I had always enjoyed understanding how things worked and fit together, as well as how they are made. The lessons never felt like work, because I was doing what I enjoyed.
“Throughout my childhood I spent a lot of time playing with K-nex and Lego. I really liked being able to get involved with the practical side, of sketching and building prototypes and testing – reading textbooks never really interested me at all. Therefore, when choosing the degree I wanted to do, there was only one option!”
When Sammy did her degree, she was one of two women in an intake of 17. The year group above was 100% male and the one below had just one woman.
Asked what she thinks puts women off working in engineering and similar careers, Sammy is very clear.
“I don’t think women are necessarily put off working in engineering, I think it’s more the lack of exposure to the field. For me, there was no real talk of it during my education. The only time I saw it as an option was at university, before then it wasn’t mentioned.
“It wasn’t until studying Product Design in Sixth From that I began to understand a little more about it, how there are different fields of it, and how everything around us is engineered in some way.
“If you asked me what was involved in engineering when I was younger I wouldn’t have had any interest in it, as I thought it was all maths and equations, which is a part of it, but it’s so much more than that.
“It is a very male-dominated industry, but I don’t think it should be at all, the whole industry would benefit from more female perspective on the products that get designed.”
One hardly needs to ask, but Sammy does confirm that she loves her job.
“As a design engineer, I love my job. It’s the opportunity to make a change to the products you have around you. Everything you use has been designed and engineered to some degree, from a computer mouse to an aeroplane.”
So, what would she say needs to be done to get more women into engineering?
“Engineering isn’t all equations, greasy workshops and cars. That’s kind of the opinion I had of it in my head when I was still in school,” she says. “I learnt that there are lots of different fields to engineering.
“The challenge is finding problems that people didn’t realise they had until you give them a solution. I love that I can design a product entirely, from the aesthetics and ergonomics to engineering it to be fit for purpose. To then see that product around you and to walk into a shop and be able to buy it, after having taken it through the whole process, is really satisfying.”
Wrekin Products is proud to support INWED and thanks Sammy for sharing her story.
(1) Skills & Demands from Industry – 2015 Survey, IET http://www.theiet.org/factfiles/education/skills2015-page.cfm
(2) Engineering UK 2015: The State of Engineering, http://www.engineeringuk.com/EngineeringUK2015/EngUK_Report_2015_Interactiv