Changing people’s perceptions is one of the key ways to attract more females into engineering, science and technology, the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year says.
Arlene McConnell, who works as a Radar and Advanced Targeting Systems Engineer at SELEXGalileo, said that when she was at school she “didn’t like maths” and did not see the point in it. After leaving school and working at a local shop, she ended up joining the Royal Air Force as a Regiment Gunner.
Sometimes the equipment broke down and engineers would come out and help fix it. It was then she started to realise where engineering fitted in the world and started to gain an interest in it, she said at an event last week organised by resourcing specialists TMP Worldwide, which brought organisations together to discuss how to get more women into engineering, science and technology.
“I realised the technology we used affected the missions, and the quality of the technology that we used, well, that could be life or death, that’s where engineering fits in.”
A lot of people do not realise that engineering affects us every day, starting in the morning when people turned their pressure shower on, she said. “Everything is engineering and technology.”
The way to attract more women into the industry, she believes, is by changing perceptions, igniting passion and leading by example. One of the things helping change people’s perceptions is the Bloodhound SSC project, she said.
Danella Bagnall, from Jaguar Land Rover - the first female senior manager in engineering at the firm - said she has been working at the company for 24 years, starting out as an apprentice. Bagnall said she had no idea what she wanted to do when she was 16 and only knew that she wanted to do a degree. Apprenticeships were a great way of continuing education, developing skills, and getting people in to industry, she said.
The 2011 IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year will be announced on December 1.