Although the percentage of women in engineering is increasing, it’s doing so at a relatively slow rate. Just 12 per cent of engineers are female and according to UNwomen.org, only 35 per cent of all students enrolled in STEM related fields of study are women. Gender diversity in STEM related industries has always been an issue, but why is this? It often comes down to stereotypes. However, times are changing, and we should be embracing women in science and pushing to achieve a better percentage. Only then will we be able to make the breakthroughs we crave because with diversity becomes better knowledge and understanding.
The goal of International Day of Women and Girls in Science is to challenge stereotypes and help women understand what they can bring to the industry. We spoke to Principle Design Verification & Certification Engineer here at MBDA*, Karen Mason about her experiences and what inspired her to become a part of the STEM industry.
*MBDA is the only company capable of designing and producing missile systems to meet the current and future needs of the armed forces over land, sea and air. They embrace the importance of diversity in the workplace and use it to deliver competitive advantage to all of their stakeholders. They are committed to providing a diverse and inclusive workplace for all of their employees.
What inspired you to work in the industry?
I am a very practical person; I would always enjoy taking things apart and figuring out how they worked. The tales my father told me triggered an interest in technology and discovery, it’s been rooted in me since my childhood.
What would you say young females who are considering a career in engineering?
My honest advice would be to just be you. Bringing women into the workforce isn’t just about plugging the skills gap; it’s about bringing about a more diverse workforce where people can express ideas. Without diversity, some of the best ideas would have never been discovered.
It’s so easy for us to get caught up in negative patterns, versus seeing what positive change you can make. We need to learn to see challenges as steppingstones instead of hurdles. They really can bring you experience and closer to your goals.
Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it and make it the life you want to live.
What has been your most memorable or proudest moment?
There have been so many, but the most important impact I made was in my own family. My daughter wrote this:
“When I was little I went up to my mum and asked if I could have an Action Man instead of a Barbie. She asked why and I said that Barbie was boring and action man did much cooler things. She told me that Barbie could do everything that action man could do and more. After that Barbie did everything from exploring to parachute jumping. My mum always taught me that I could do anything I wanted to; she inspired me to be my own woman.
My mum inspires me every day she is determined, passionate and intelligent. Every time I face a problem, I think how would mum approach this? She taught me to think in a different way; she inspired me to be my own person in my own right. She taught me how to fix things round the house and how to do my own finances; she taught me how to wire a plug. She inspired me to be strong, independent and determined all qualities she has herself.”
I also have two sons, they have told me I encouraged them to be who they are, I gave them confidence. Teaching your children that they can achieve whatever they put their mind too, whatever their gender, is a lesson that will have an everlasting impact.
What have you enjoyed most about your career so far?
Having the opportunity to grow, life is a series of building, testing, changing and iterating, I challenged myself by going where I could learn and grow the most. Even if I didn’t succeed, at least I learnt a lot.
What would you say to other women and girls who may be put off joining the industry because of its male-dominance?
Engineering is not a boy's game; it's not a girl's game. It's everyone's game. It's about where we are and where we're going. Trust in yourself, believe that your voice matters, and know that your words are good enough. I have never let gender get in my way.
Learn to ask for things, be concise, relevant, and brave.
Always remember, you are braver than believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think.
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