Chloe Thomas and Kara McDougall, Product Design Engineering students at LJMU, are currently on a placement at CAL International, a production engineering company based in Knowsley. They talk about their experience as women in engineering and possible ways to encourage more women to enter the industry.
Why did you choose to study engineering?
Kara: "My dad is a mobile engineer and my grandad was a welder. I always wanted to know how things were made. I loved IKEA and building blocks as well as Art Deco. It was a passion in my life as long as I can remember."
Chloe: "I did a graphics and art GCSE and then product design A Level. It wasn’t until I went to an Open Day that I realised engineering had so many more potential paths that I could take."
Kara: "I think we realised that doing a BSc instead of a BA in design would be much more useful to us because it involves more maths and physics. That’s why I chose engineering."
Do you think women are underrepresented in engineering?
Kara: "The stigma around engineering being a male-dominated industry needs to be removed. Debbie Sterling, the founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, is brilliant. She has developed a range of interactive children’s toys which challenge gender stereotypes, including the world’s first girl engineer character. This a great step forward and something that should be developed further."
How can we get more women and girls interested in engineering?
Kara: "Girls don’t seem to know how many different types of engineering roles are out there. Most of it is done on CAD (computer aided design) systems nowadays, however I know a lot of girls that still think engineering is a ‘get your hands dirty’ industry."
Chloe: "Schools need to offer more engineering or design-based courses. There is no point in creating a passion for engineering if girls can not continue it during their schooling life. I think female-based events would help this too, showing young engineers that females are ‘allowed’ in the industry and to nurture a passion.
"When we go to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) events the girls love it as much as the boys do, it’s just that the opportunities available aren’t pushed or advertised as much to them, which they should be!"
"Hopefully, as more women enter the engineering industry, society will become less judgemental. Do it for your passion of engineering and don’t let any gender stereotypes stop you." – Kara McDougall
What skills have you gained from your engineering placement?
Kara: "When we first started at CAL, we were trained on the new CAD design system. This was great fun and meant I could start designing my own products from the beginning. We also get to speak and interact with people from all sectors of the company, meaning we have gained skills in both mechanical and electrical engineering design."
Chloe: "Exactly! When we first started, we both had limited mechanical engineering knowledge and CAL has taught us so much. The team here have also helped us develop key communication skills. When we design products we are brought into meetings for real-life critique and we are treated like fully-fledged engineers. This has been such a valuable experience for us."
What advice would you give to girls wanting to get into engineering?
Chloe: "I would encourage them to speak to people in the industry, this helps hugely and is so inspiring. Try to get work experience with companies like CAL that are team focused. If you want to do an engineering course, don’t be put off by any posters or statistics that may be male focused, it is being offered to females as much as it is males."
"If you want to study engineering, do it! There are so many options for you and it’s really exciting."
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