My Experience as a Female Engineer
By Kate Goldup, Blog Co-Founder & Fourth Year Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol
When there are noticeably so few women in engineering, something I often get asked is what is it like being surrounded by men?
The truth is that for the most part you don't notice it. I don't spend my days thinking that I am outnumbered, instead I feel lucky to work with extremely talented peers who share my passion. Engineering is for anyone and everyone, and since being female has no bearing on my technical ability, it makes little difference to my day-to-day experience as an engineer.
The best engineers are logical, creative and pay close attention to detail, they succeed because they have great communication skills and work hard. This could be anyone as there is no predefined mold of what an engineer should look like, only societies expectations. The fact that I don't fit with these traditional expectations doesn't matter, and I have found people to be largely supportive of a break away from the outdated concept that all engineers are middle aged, white men.
Whilst I have a had an extremely positive experience of being a female engineer, there have been obstacles to overcome. One source of self-doubt came from comments about my achievements being primarily because I am a girl, in this case being offered an internship simply to fulfill gender equality quotas. Whether a genuine opinion or a poor joke, comments like this are difficult to ignore. If you are ever on the receiving end, my best advice would be to use this as motivation to do the best job you can. At the end of the day you have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself, but why not harness the negativity for your own benefit. If you work hard your success will speak for itself.
It hasn't always been easy to accept that my successes are deserved and I admit to having my fair share of insecurities. Overcoming these however and pursuing a career in engineering is extremely rewarding. I have loved my time studying at Bristol and had a fantastic year in the aerodynamics department of Renault F1 (an experience I can't wait to share with you in a future post). My degree and my internship have both challenged me more than I thought possible and as a result I have gained so much. It is so satisfying to contribute ideas and solve difficult problems.
However, I have not just benefited technically from a career in engineering, it has also had a hugely positive impact on my personal development. Countless opportunities to present my work have helped me gain much needed confidence with public speaking and the collaborative nature of engineering has further developed the skills needed to work as part of a team.
There are countless reasons why being an engineer is so enjoyable and fulfilling, and a wonderful career path no matter your gender. So, to anyone considering a career in engineering - go for it!