This Sunday June 23rd, female Engineers around the world will be asked to take to social media with #INWED19 as a celebration of women in engineering.
Now in its 5th year, the International Women in Engineering Day received UNESCO patronage in 2016. Last year’s campaign reached over 2.5million people through social media and this year the Women’s Engineering Society hope to blow these numbers out of the water by getting #INWED19 and #Transformthefuture trending.
You can read more about how you can get involved here, however, to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, we wanted to catch up with former UKESF Scholar of the Year winner, Joanna Taylor to see how her career is going, whether she feels the industry is changing and her tips for women considering a career in the industry.
Since 2016 when Joanna was named UKESF Scholar of the Year, she’s graduated from Bristol University with a Master's Degree and was snapped up by AI Chip manufacturer Graphcore where she works as a Silicon Product Engineer in the Product Test and Measurement department. Let’s see what Joanna’s been up to since we last interviewed her three years ago when she won her prestigious title.
1) What is it like working for Graphcore?......
It’s been great to work for a small company as it grows and to be able to be involved with so many different things.
The company has nearly 250 employees now and is still growing fast with new offices having opened overseas and our Bristol offices expanding dramatically, just in the time I’ve been here. This change means there’s lots of room to grow and learn.
2) Was being an engineer something you dreamed of as a child, or is this a goal that materialised later in life?
No. I didn’t decide to go into engineering until I was applying for university. I’ve always enjoyed maths and physics at school, so for me, engineering has been a perfect applied combination of the two.
3) As a woman, fully entrenched within the engineering industry, what do you see are the key barriers to women wanting to break into engineering?
The key barriers that we see are probably at school-age. Young women are put off from the industry and encouraged into other fields. Then, once they’re older there’s the perceived idea that it’s “too late” to retrain (which is untrue, it’s never too late to pursue the things you really want to do in life).
4) How could the engineering industry do more to communicate the successes of women within engineering?
More employers should do things like this interview, just to show that women in engineering do exist and we do interesting things.
Unfortunately, young people don’t get much exposure to engineering at a young age, especially girls. I also like things like the “people like me” campaign. I really connect with the idea that a child can see someone like themselves doing a job role and realise that if that person can do it, they can do it too.
5) What can companies do to encourage more women into engineering?
Companies can do more outreach into their local communities and beyond. By going into schools and running workshops or talks that demonstrate how interesting and varied engineering really is.
But I think it’s really important that these workshops aren’t exclusives for ‘girls only’ or ‘no boys allowed’ as this exclusion doesn’t help the integration of girls into what is currently a very male-dominated field.
This kind of singling out of girls can cause more harm than good, reducing their enjoyment of an event. We need more good engineers in the industry no matter who they are, where they’re from or what their socio-economic background is.
Also, I’d like to see companies taking a range of different people to careers fairs as this really makes them easier to approach.
At Graphcore, we have some female engineers who have come from a broader STEM background and did not do computer science or electronic engineering degrees. Sharing non-traditional education and career paths is important to help diversity generally.
6) If you could give a single piece of advice to young women looking to break into Engineering today, what would it be?
I’d tell them to not be afraid or shy. If Engineering is what you want to do, then be enthusiastic about it and don’t be afraid to 'boast' on your CV. I’ve found that many women aren’t very good at 'showing off' their achievements, even when what they’ve achieved is really amazing.
7) The theme for this year's International Women in Engineering Day is #Transformthefuture. If you had all the resources you could wish for, how would you #transformthefuture?
If I had all the resources I could wish for, I’d have regular workshops and talks or seminars run in schools up and down the country for young people to get engaged with engineering. These would be run by lots of different people from different fields and would give young people more exposure to engineering through people who actually work in that area.
I would also work with existing scholarship schemes such as the UKESF to help those who are at university. I’d like to see more paid internships, like the intern programme Graphcore has and charities looking to sponsor students who want to train in engineering by offering bursaries for degree courses. Although there is support available through student finance, some people still struggle with general living costs while studying.