This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. The day shines the light on the need for a gender-equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
We called on staff around the business to show their support for breaking the bias in the workplace and beyond. It’s no secret that Engineering has long been a male-dominated industry. However, while there is still a long way to go, since 2010 both the percentage and number of women in engineering roles has increased. In 2010, just over 1 in 10 (10.5%) of those working in engineering roles were women. By 2021, this had risen to 16.5% – representing an increase from 562,000 in 2010 to 936,000 in 2021 (source: Engineering UK, Women In Engineering Report, March 2022)
We caught up with some of our female engineers to find out their thoughts on the need to #BreakTheBias in the world of engineering.
Sharon, Production Manager
“I knew that I wanted to be an engineer from an early age. As the eldest of five kids, and the only girl, I spent my teenage years taking motorbikes and banger cars to bits and putting them back together. In those days though, I was definitely a woman in a man’s world.
In fact, at one point, I worked for an Engineering company that supplied to the MOD. I had the pleasure of going on a type 45 submarine in dry dock to carry out an isolation. They took one look at me as a woman and asked if they could carry my toolbox for me!
Things have definitely changed over the years. When I first started at Crestchic, I was the only woman in a team of men. I’m pleased to say they treated me as an equal and we’re now evening up the numbers!”
“When I chose what to study at university, my dad and mum suggested I should do teaching, medicine, or accounting. They felt that they were more suitable subjects for a woman, but I wanted to change the world in a different way, by designing and building equipment and delivering engineering projects which can make the world a better place.
When I was looking for my first job after graduation, I was asked to take less salary compared to male graduates. I asked why, the interviewer explained that, as an engineer, site visits may require heavy lifting, that some of the sites may not be safe for women, and that some of them don’t even have a female toilet.
After almost ten years in the industry, I can tell the atmosphere is changing. It’s easier for women engineers now, but there is still bias, and we can do more to improve.”
Female engineers who changed the world
- Hertha Marks Ayrton was a leading suffragette, physicist, mathematician, and inventor who patented 26 inventions during her lifetime. Amongst them was the ‘Ayrton anti-gas fan’, which was used in the WWI trenches to disperse gas. In 1899 she was the first elected female member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE).
- In the late 1800s, Alice H. Parker designed the first gas furnace powered by natural gas, and the first heating system which allowed temperature control in different areas through independently monitored burners.
- Dr Margaret Fishenden (1889-1977) carried out pioneering work in Combustion and Heat Transfer contributed to the understanding of aircraft gas turbines, flamethrowers, and airfield gas-burners.
- Ada Lovelace is considered the first computer programmer. She collabprated with mathematician Charles Babbage to work on the Analytical Engine. Decades before the first computers, she worked out how to use the Analytical Engine to perform calculations – the first ever algorithms.
- Stephanie Kwolek accidentally discovered bulletproof fibre Kevlar in the 1960s while looking for a lightweight but strong material for car tires. Following extensive research into polymers, Kwolek discovered that Kevlar is five times stronger by weight than steel. It is now used in bulletproof vests and mobile phone cases.
- Mary Anderson invented the first hand operated windscreen wiper in 1902. It consisted of a lever inside the vehicle connected to a rubber blade outside. Few car makers were interested until years later, when they became a standard feature. In 1917 another woman, Charlotte Bridgwood, patented the first automatic windscreen wiper.
- In her spare time, 1930s film star Hedy Lamarr developed a technique called ‘frequency hopping’ that was used by the US military to control weapons and other devices remotely, without the worry of jamming.