“It feels great when you come up with an innovative idea which changes an industry” declares LJMU engineer Princy Johnson.
The problem is not enough women like Dr Johnson are making their mark on engineering nor solving the world’s technical problems.
In 2019, still, just 12% of UK engineers were female.
As we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day on June 23, we asked LJMU engineers for their advice to young women interested in changing the world through technology.
The fact that many of them are not originally from the UK speaks volumes – in India, for example, 30% of engineering graduates are women. In the UK, it is just 15%.
No wonder Dr Johnson, a reader in sensors and data, gets a sense of progress when her female undergraduates make an impression: “I feel so proud when I hear that an industry employing one of my students appreciate them and say how they are making a valuable contribution to the team”.
Dr Ana Bras, a senior lecturer in bio-based materials, is another who achieves huge job satisfaction from her engineering career. Ana is currently working in India to build thousands of new homes with sustainable materials.
Another academic, Dr Tina Marolt Cebasek, speaks of her pride in becoming the first women to graduate with a PhD in mining engineering and geotechnology from the University of Ljubliana, Slovenia.
Challenges for women
Much has been spoken and written about the obstacles for females in male-dominated professions – the lack of role models and mentors, the fact that women, as civil engineer Dr Denise Lee is at pains to stress, are still considered the main carer of children, cook, cleaner and bottle-washer!
"We don't need to camouflage our femininity to be successful as engineers" - Dr Tina Marolt Cebasek
However, as careers-advisers up and down the country stress, if you take pre-conditioning out of the equation, girls are hugely interested in maths, science and engineering. Indeed, as the ages of 14-16, a significant 42% of girls say they would consider a career in engineering.
It is also a fact that 79.8% of female engineering graduates get a First or Upper Second degree compared to 74.6% of male students.
Dr Mawada Abdellatif, senior lecturer in water and environment at LJMU recommends females gain experience at all costs. “Try to do any engineering you can during your school holidays. It’s worth it because engineering allows you to develop special knowledge that helps you understand the world around you.”
Dr Michaela Gkantou, senior lecturer in structural engineering, concurs: “Engineering will exercise your brain and develop skills to think logically and solve complex problems. Hard work always pays off so keep working, keep stepping out of your comfort zone and there are will be no limits to what you can achieve!
“Find out where your passion is, explore opportunities to get real life learning - through internships or placements - and be innovative in building your career pathway,” adds Princy.