Today we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Shini Somara over coffee one afternoon. Shini is a broadcasting science and technology journalist who reports engineering and innovation on television and online, both in the UK and USA for networks such as the BBC and PBS. She began her career as a fluid dynamicist, having studied mechanical engineering at Brunel University and has always been passionate about making the invisible, visible! An interest that began with Bernoulli’s equation and has continued through her communication of science.
When we met, we started to share some common views about how to encourage more engineers into this field. Dr Somara is well placed to discuss this with her tireless work advocating STEM education, including providing free online education on physics, through a 48-episode series called Crash Course: Physics.
The conversation then moved onto the topic of gender gap in this area. I was quite shocked to find out from that women only make up 9% of Engineers in the UK from the Women in Engineering Society site she pointed me to — a statistic that she highlighted in her United Nations speech in February of this year, for International Day for Women and Girls in Science.
I had the opportunity to ask Dr Shini her thoughts and why she feels there is a shortage of female engineers. She explained:
There is no reason why women shouldn’t study engineering. In my experience, what has held most women back in this field, has been their own self-doubt. Girls drop out of engineering, largely due to a fear of failing. Failure is seldom recognised as being necessary for progress. Yet most solutions in engineering come from our understanding of failure.
Other outdated beliefs and inferior perceptions of women in engineering need to be overthrown too and instead replaced with role models. I believe role models should be a collection of men and women who are living examples of those that have followed their own passions, interests and talents, despite adversity. The skills of girls and women in engineering need to be stimulated, supported and encouraged, so that they can push through archaic attitudes, and so reach their own fullest potential within the industry.
We have been supporting IWIED since its inception and I feel strongly that we should continue this to make a real change. This is why our local office signed up for a UK event that celebrates International Women in Engineering Day. They will showcase a number of inspiring women from the engineering industry at the iconic London Transport Museum.
There is a tremendous amount of varied and exciting careers available in the engineering world and I had the opportunity to meet with several female engineers using ANSYS. They work on cool projects from designing vacuum cleaners, chocolate, shopping malls to football stadiums.
For Catriona Stokes from Dyson — great-great-niece of Sir Georges Stokes — I somehow think her destiny had already been written. Now, I’m not an engineer, but working alongside physicists every day the Navier-Stokes equation, which describes the motion of viscous fluid substances, is not as uncommon as you think.
Most people would not associate chocolate with science and mathematics but Beccy Smith from Mondelēz uses equations almost every day.
I also met with Polina Osichansky who works for EM Infinity in Israel. She is an extremely gifted electronics engineer looking at complex problems faced with RF Systems, Antenna Design and Placement and found her passion for her work uplifting.
This all inspired me to put together a short video of these talented scientists and engineers and the importance this career is for them. Let them tell you in their own words what inspires them. In closing, I encourage everyone reading this to do their best to support the women in their lives who aspire to pursue the sciences.
This day, June 23rd, began as a UK initiative but has since grown to an International Day of recognizing the great women I have the opportunity to work side-by-side each day. ANSYS has many such engineers and we applaud their expertise. Cheers!