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#girlpower National Women in Engineering Day with British Gas

I decided to study Computing at university because it was the subject that I most excelled in at school. It wasn’t until I turned up for that first week of lectures though that I realised that this career path I’d chosen was incredibly male dominated. Less than 10% of my classmates were female and by my final year I was the only girl left. In a lot of the jobs I’ve had since entering the big bad world I’ve been the only female in the team with perhaps the exception of the IT administrator who always tended to be another woman but never had any technical skills. It’s not easy working in a male dominated field so when I was invited to celebrate National Women in Engineering Day with British Gas I couldn’t turn the opportunity down.

So last Tuesday after work I trundled down to the exclusive Beaufort House on King’s Road in the heat and climbed eleventy billion stairs to get to the penthouse where I was greeted with a glass of white wine and nibbles in exchange for my efforts. After some mingling with fellow attendees we were then led to a different room where there was to be a panel discussion with some wonderful women from the industry.

*Disclaimer: I attended this event for free in exchange for blogging about the event. The below opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

The panel was chaired by Dickon Ross, editor of Engineering and Technology Magazine, with four panelists: Claire Miles, managing director of British Gas Homecare; Dawn Bonfield, president of the Women’s Engineering Society, Dr Arti Agrawal, a lecturer at City University specialising in optical fibres, and Nadia Abbas, a British Gas engineer.

The panel was a fascinating discussion mainly aimed around ways of getting young girls interested in science and engineering disciplines as well as providing examples of women who have had a huge impact on the industry but don’t really get the recognition that they deserve. For example you may have heard of Ada Lovelace who was instrumental in the invention of the first computer but did you know that 1940’s film star Hedy Lamarr was co-creator of technology that we use every time we pick up a smart phone?

Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid. – Hedy Lamarr

At the moment only 6% of engineering positions are filled by women and there is still a long way to go until we can bridge this gap. Parents have a huge impact on their children probably bigger than they realise and they can help influence their young children to consider these disciplines from a young age with visits to the Science Museum and provision of relevant toys such as microscopes and chemistry kits. (I’m pleased to say I had both of these when I was younger!)

There is also an issue with male managers not realising the potential of their female subordinates and often passing them over for promotions or training opportunities – something I can definitely relate with in my current field. Luckily Claire Miles is doing her best to ensure that this is not the case at British Gas and that talent is being nurtured regardless of gender.

The future of engineering is changing along with the technology that facilitates it which means that a whole new set of skills will be required. This is particularly exciting for girls who may be drawn to careers that can benefit society. Artificial intelligence, sustainable energy and robotics can all do this and will do this as long as we can get the right kind of people to take on these roles.

There is still a long way to go before women will be seen as equal in male dominated fields. Heck we’ve still got a way to go before women are seen as equal in day-to-day life but it’s great to see women who take on these type of roles being celebrated for it. #NWED was trending 5th in the world on the day itself and if that doesn’t tell you things are changing in the world then there’s not much I can say!

2 thoughts on “#girlpower National Women in Engineering Day with British Gas

  1. I had a microscope when I was a child! I was a big fat nerdberger! But then I didn’t go on to do anything remotely sciencey related so I feel like I’m totally letting the side down. Bah. Sorry about that.

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