Engineering politics

Image of Chi Onwura with LJMU staff

LJMU’s third lecture in its Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Lecture series was delivered by Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Culture & the Digital Economy.

The inspirational lecture was attended by staff and students from across the University plus school pupils and representatives from other higher education institutions and private, voluntary and statutory organisations from all over the UK.

Reflecting on her own childhood, Chi Onwurah said that everyone could be whatever they wanted to be in life if they set their mind to it. Growing up in a council estate in Newcastle, Chi’s mother, who herself was disabled and had cancer, encouraged her to pursue her dream of working in engineering, which is still a male dominated field.

She more than achieved this ambition, working on numerous high profile projects in many different countries, including being a hardware engineer with Nortel in London and Paris, a project manager with Cable and Wireless in the Far East, an Operations Director for Teligent in Washington DC as well as in Nigeria where she helped build GSM networks for MTM.

While being a woman from a Black, Asian and Minority (BAME) background, Chi said she never focused on discrimination, but rather on what she could achieve, taking inspiration from women such as Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, Florence Nightingale, the founder of the science of statistics and inventor of the pie chart and Katherine Johnson who wrote the flight path whose calculations helped to put a man on the moon. "Women's stories haven’t been told or celebrated enough," said Chi, "and they need to be because that is what tells others the boundaries of the possible."

Professor Robin Leatherbarrow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Scholarship, Research and Knowledge Transfer) and chair of LJMU’s Athena Swan Working Group, added: 

"Chi’s story is truly inspirational and shows how success can be achieved irrespective of negative societal expectations based on stereotypes about gender or race. The statistics are stark and show that only 13% of those working in STEM occupations are women. We simply do not have enough women going into STEM subject areas, which is a lost opportunity that should be redressed."

An audio file of the full lecture can be accessed at the following link:

Pictured: Chi Onwurah MP (Centre) pictured with Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Scholarship, Research and Knowledge Transfer) Robin Leatherbarrow (left) and Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Weatherill (right) and members of LJMU’s Athena Swan Working Group


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