The IT security wing of BAE Systems has appointed Elaine Baker as director of engineering, the first woman to take up the role.
Baker, who has held senior roles at Capita, Barclays, CSC and Xansa, will have global responsibility for engineering across all of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence’s business areas, which include cyber-security, big data, risk and compliance and systems integration.
Last year’s IET Skills Survey revealed that women still only make up 7 per cent of the engineering workforce leading some to claim that the industry is a difficult place for women to become successful, but according to Baker it’s a side of the industry she does not recognise.
“I don’t see it, but that’s probably just the person I am,” she said. “I see it almost as an advantage because it’s a differentiator, perhaps by looking at things from a different perspective it helps you solve problems.”
Working internationally she said she has found many women in senior positions at American companies and also in Asia, particularly in places such as India and the Philippines, and while she accepts more should be done to boost the number of women in the industry it’s not an issue of the culture but more one of advertising.
“We’ve got to focus on making it exciting, something that women want to join,” she said. “I think that is where we have a great advantage because the work here in the applied intelligence space is really so exciting and it adds another dimension to the view of engineering.”
For Baker mentors are important and she dedicates considerable effort to helping develop those who work for her, but she believes that people should expand their horizons when looking for inspiration.
“I have had colleagues reaching out to me to say they are pleased an engineering director has been appointed and that someone given the opportunity happens to be female. I think people are encouraged by it,” she said. “But I personally look for senior female role models generally not just in engineering.”
Key to her new role implementing an improvement programme and she says she plans to introduce a more “industrial approach” to the business by introducing repeatability, consistency and automation to the diverse services and solutions the company provides.
“It’s about driving a consistent approach in global engineering,” she said. “It makes sense to be reusing assets, making sure you don’t reinvent the wheel every time, making sure everyone is aware of the knowledge we already have.”
Chief operating officer Neil Medley said: “The appointment of Elaine Baker as director of engineering is a very positive step that will help drive growth in BAE Systems Applied Intelligence’s core business.
“Having a world class engineering function is an absolutely essential requirement, and is vital to the ongoing success of the business as a whole. Elaine has a very strong track record and brings vast experience from leading global engineering teams, making her an excellent addition to the senior leadership team.”