Women in technology: An interview with our UKESF scholar of the year finalists
Joanna Taylor – UKESF Scholar of the Year winner 2016
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I’ve been given recently was to not be afraid to take risks and make mistakes. If you don’t try it then you won't learn or find out what could happen. Everything can be used as a learning experience.
Did you have important mentors/role models?
My mum has always pushed me to do my best in everything I try to do yet, at the same time, she’s always been happy with my best. As long as I’ve tried my hardest or my best then that’s good enough.
What drew you into the field?
I’ve always enjoyed maths and physics so, for me, engineering was the perfect applied combination of my two favourite subjects at school.
Who do you think is responsible for encouraging girls/women to enter engineering fields?
I think that it is important for both schools and industry to encourage females into engineering by working together to show people how exciting a career in engineering can be.
Is there anything schools or companies can do to make engineering more interesting to children in general or girls in particular?
They can show children what engineering really is. When I was younger if you said the word engineer to me I would have immediately thought of my local mechanic. There are many varied and exciting different types of engineering and I don’t believe that young people are shown what they could do and how they could apply their school subjects in the real world. For girls in particular, it’s useful to show them role models and examples of 'people like them' and more varied role models, both male and female, with different backgrounds.
Do you think women need to push harder to achieve / progress?
I think that it depends on those around you. I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in situations where people have been indiscriminate, but I’ve heard that has not been the case for many other women and that they’ve had to work much harder just to be seen to be as good at engineering as their male counterparts.
Mara Terente – UKESF Scholar of the Year runner 2016
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? – The best advice I’ve been given was to just try. Even if I feel I cannot do it (or I’m not completely suited for the role, let’s say), I should try anyway.
Did you have important mentors/role models? – The only role model I have is my mom because she is strong and smart. However, I do try to notice what every person I meet is good at and I try to learn from them. As an example, one of my managers was particularly good at organising and holding meetings and he had good rules for organising the work we were doing. Another colleague of mine had good concentration so I always admired him for that. To sum up, everyone is a role model in a way.
What drew you into the field? – I could have never imagined doing a job where I had to write documents or anything at all, or where I had to do a lot of memorising. I was good at and liked Maths, Physics, Chemistry in school, so engineering was undoubtedly the way to go.
Who do you think is responsible for encouraging girls/women to enter engineering fields? – Parents, school staff, society ... everyone really. Parents should never label what is for girls and what is for boys from that point of view, and should encourage their daughters to consider these fields. Generally, girls have less confidence and science seems hard, but they have the same capability as boys to pursue it. Schools should promote this from a very young age too – even from kindergarten.
Is there anything schools or companies can do to make engineering more interesting to children in general or girls in particular? – Events. Events for all ages, for very young children, to light up the passion. If kids see that they got something to work (whether it is code, building etc.), they will want to do it again. They will feel they are good at something and they will try to pursue it.
Do you think women need to push harder to achieve / progress? – I believe they do, but many of the people I know would beg to differ. I have been told so many times by male coursemates and even the head of recruiting of a big technology company that it is much easier for women to get engineering jobs because they stand out just for being ‘women in engineering’. I did not like that because they made my success of getting a good job seem small. Whatever people say, a large proportion of men still think women cannot do engineering. One example is that at university, in team projects, I was not always trusted at the beginning when I was suggesting solutions, but I usually grew to lead the team in the end.
You can view our full report on Women in Technology here.