What does it actually feel like being a female in a male-dominated industry?

28 Jul 2016 4min read

The third anniversary of National Women in Engineering Day (#NWED2016) was on 23rd June. It is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering. One goal is to focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry.

I was first reminded about the day when a friend actually congratulated me on Facebook. Which got me thinking… ‘As a female engineer, why wasn’t NWED at the forefront of my mind?’ and ‘What does it actually feel like being a female in a male-dominated industry?’

Let’s consider my first question – if women working as engineers need a day to celebrate their profession why had I almost missed it?

At Team, I don’t feel like I’m in the minority at all: with an impressive 28% female engineering workforce alone, amongst 44% females that form technical teams across mechanical engineering, electronics and software, human factors, industrial design and project management, how could I?

The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) issued an interesting survey about the engineering workforce:

“..some of the statistics highlighted in the IET’s report have not changed significantly since 2005…For Example, the number of women in engineering has remained under 10% of the total engineering workforce in the UK; the gender balance in the profession remains one of the worst in Europe.” — Skills & Demands in Industry, 2015 Survey, IET.

With this kind of record it seems we still need to raise the profile of engineering for women. One of the ways I celebrated the day was to send a NWED celebratory email to encourage co-workers to mark the occasion. I thought the following illustration was funny.

Image source: Yehicus
Image source: Yehicus

The email to my co-workers sparked two interesting responses. One of my male engineering colleagues decided to get a little creative with his recognition by photoshopping me into the Telegraph‘s Top 50 Women in Engineering article.


Now I have to confess, whilst I haven’t been nominated for the Top 50 Women in Engineering, I was really flattered with the gesture. But to top it off, the biggest compliment was probably the congratulations from another colleague who didn’t think that my nomination was completely unrealistic, so a great day all round and just for doing my job!

Which brings me on to my second question ‘What does it feel like to be a female engineer?’

In today’s technological world, there is a big focus on STEM: the integration and application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Reading through ’12 inspirational quotes from women who rock STEM’ a common theme resonated with me: with determination, passion, enthusiasm and talent, gender is not even a consideration.

So I suspect how I feel as a female engineer is very similar to how my male engineer co-workers feel, extremely lucky to have a vocation rather than a job.

I’m proud to say that at every opportunity at Team, we celebrate our collaborative success (usually with cake) and recognise a job well done (again with more cake!) regardless of gender.

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