Sharing stories: Celebrating Heriot-Watt's Women Engineers

Sharing stories: Celebrating Heriot-Watt's Women Engineers

The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) established the National Women in Engineering Day on 23 June 2014 to celebrate its 95th anniversary.

WES is a professional, not-for-profit network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration, support and professional development. Working in partnership, the organisation campaigns to encourage women to participate and achieve as engineers, scientists and as leaders.

Only 7% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female and in university engineering departments only 20% of full-time academic staff are female. In 2012, only 39% of female engineering graduates entered roles in engineering and technology, compared to 50% of male graduates. At Heriot-Watt only 18% of our engineering undergraduate students are female.

Sharing Stories event

To celebrate UK Women in Engineering Day and as part of its Athena SWAN activities, the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences organised the "Sharing Stories" event. Invited speakers included Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer (EPS/IPE), Dr Gabriela Medero (SBE) and Dr Aruna Ivaturi (EPS) who shared tales of their careers.

The discussion also included the challenges of finding a life balance with an international career and a dual-career family, unconscious bias, the importance of role models and how to best approach a career break. Participants, men and women from across the University, networked over lunch and took part in a fun photo-shoot to promote women in engineering.

One participant told a story of being asked what she did: "Her: I'm an engineer. Him: But you look more like a nurse!?" Challenging these stereotyped images of what an engineer looks like is a small part of the journey but an important one.

Comments from participants included: "Good to see role models in action", "Inspiring - encouraged to do a PhD!", "This really taught me a lot about how to succeed in academia."

To find out more about the Athena SWAN Women in Science Initiative at Heriot-Watt visit: http://www1.hw.ac.uk/equality/Athena.html