I’ve spent most of my working life in a male dominated environment. My focus has been on getting on with the job and doing whatever I’ve done to the best of my ability. However, I have always been aware that others would observe my career progression as an female engineer with interest, and maybe see me as something of a role model.
It is absolutely clear to me that truly diverse workplaces are all the better for including both men and women from all walks of life. Diversity of thinking leads to better outcomes – whether that means better engineering solutions or safer, healthier workplaces more generally. Creative solutions emerge when people who think differently are given the opportunity to contribute.
We often read about the urgent need for more women to become engineers and leaders and last week I was privileged to meet some very impressive young women who are both. IChemE and UCL jointly staged an event to celebrate Women in Engineering and I was invited along to make the closing remarks.
The event was a pleasure and an inspiration – hearing from six young women who spoke about their early careers. Two of them have already been recognised with awards – IChemE’s Young Chemical Engineer of the Year 2013 and the Winner of the Women’s Engineering Society Award 2013.
The former is Sara Button who, like me, graduated from Imperial College. While at university Sara became involved with a student organisation called Engineers Without Borders who, in their spare time, work on projects for the developing world. Five years later at the ripe old age of 23, Sara is now a trustee of Raincatcher – the charitable organisation which has a student branch at Imperial College, and which funds rain water harvesting projects in Tanzania to provide clean water to thousands of people. Sara does this in addition to her full time role as an engineer with Johnson Matthey Davy Technologies.
I was honoured and privileged to win a First Women Award last year for what I have achieved in my career. It’s clear to me that there are many other candidates out there for these awards who will go on to achieve even greater things in their careers – I met six of them last week.
I’m convinced that the world of work will become a better and safer place as they and their peers take their places as the next generation of leaders.