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Saturday 23 June marked International Women in Engineering day, organised by The Women’s Engineering Society to celebrate the role they play in the industry.

Over a quarter of Arc Partnership’s staff are women, including engineers and architects, so to celebrate the day five of them got together to discuss this year’s theme of Raising the bar.”

Saturday 23 June marked International Women in Engineering day, organised by The Women’s Engineering Society to celebrate the role they play in the industry.

Over a quarter of Arc Partnership’s staff are women, including engineers and architects, so to celebrate the day five of them got together to discuss this year’s theme of Raising the bar.”

Sharon Wenn is a Mechanical Engineer and has been in the industry since 1991. Stella Roussou is an Architect whose most recent project is a young people’s secure unit. Alanah Miles is a Trainee Architectural Technologist, while Esther Idoko and Kaitlyn Alan are Trainee Architects, with Katlin accredited by both RIBA and CIBSE.

Alanah Miles

The Positives

Although our group work in a male dominated industry, they’ve rarely experienced negative discrimination. They’ve all been able to make progress in their careers, in fact Sharon found that she benefited from positive discrimination at the very start of her career, although they all felt that shouldn’t be the case now. No-one should be chosen for a role because of their gender, but because they are the best candidate.

Kaitlin found that the students on her university course were mostly women and feels that as the older generation of architects and engineers are beginning to retire, the balance is starting to shift and equalise.

The Negatives

Esther Idoko

There still needs to be a shift in perception when it comes to girls pursuing a career in engineering or other STEM areas. Although Kaitlin’s experience at university was different, both Esther and Alanah found that men still heavily outnumbered women on their recent courses.

That shift in perception is particularly needed at home – almost all our group experienced some form of objection when they chose their careers.

More needs to be done to encourage girls’ interest in STEM careers at an earlier stage, before they get to GCSE. Girls may have an interest in STEM subjects at school but not understand how they can use them. That’s where good careers advice plays a part, or the opportunity for work experience, Sharon admits she had no idea that she wanted to be an engineer, but a careers advisor looked at what she was good at, suggested mechanical engineering and the rest is history!

Stella Rousou

Differences

During the conversation there was a consensus that women do design differently to men, not because they’re women, but because of different experiences and influences.

The group agreed that someone like Zaha Hadid was not one of the best female architects, she was one of the best of all architects. However, they didn’t think that a man would have designed buildings the way she did, because of the influences she used in her designs.

Sharon Wenn

Raising the bar

When it comes to raising the bar, everyone agreed that this can be achieved by working together. Women can raise the bar by supporting each other in their careers but also by working together, collaboratively with men.

Everyone has different skills, whatever their gender, so we should celebrate these differences and make the most of them to get the best results.

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