INTERNATIONAL WOMEN IN ENGINEERING DAY 2021 – ‘EVERYDAY HEROES’ Part Three
As a recruitment agency that specialises in engineering, supply chain and technical sales recruitment we are lucky enough to meet some truly inspiring individuals and industry leaders.
This year, the annual International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) – being celebrated on 23rd June – gives us an opportunity to celebrate ‘Engineering Heroes’. The purpose of the INWED event (now in its eighth year) is to highlight how female engineers help to ‘deliver and maintain critical services and infrastructure, keep civic society functioning at every level, and support lives and livelihoods’.
A great way to do this is to showcase some of ‘the best, brightest and bravest women in engineering’ who are leading the way for others and are finding new pathways within the sector.
Lakshmi Liju Lal is a System Integration Engineer at our client Boulting, she is an excellent example of an inspiring woman in engineering.
Boulting provide multi-disciplinary engineering solutions from front-end design and consultancy through to construction, commissioning, validation, and ongoing maintenance services. Lakshmi was able to spare some time to talk to us about her journey and the engineering industry as a whole.
WHAT MADE YOU FIRST INTERESTED IN A CAREER IN ENGINEERING?
I have always been interested in problem-solving. Tinkering with things has always been something that I have done since my childhood. It all initially started with fixing broken mechanical pencils and retractable pens. Anything DIY in the house and I would be helping my brother complete the project. Both my father and brother are engineers and that gave me an even better exposure to the engineering field. My father would often take me to his company during my school holidays, I got the opportunity to witness different instruments, shutdown work, and the petrol refining process. When it came to choosing my career later in my life I knew I wanted to be an engineer.
CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
I completed my bachelor’s degree in India. The engineering discipline I chose for my bachelor’s degree is predominantly male-dominated. The career options that were available to women were few. While a lot of my fellow students moved to more women-friendly career in IT, I was fortunate to find work in the same field that I had my degree in.
I then moved to the UK, where my career prospects were much wider and better. Although, I found it difficult to break into the industry partly because I had been on a maternity break. My very first job after I moved to the UK was as a temporary lab technician at a water quality testing lab. During this time I got the opportunity to work as a service desk administrator for the Operations department of a water company with a promise to be able to move into the project team at a later date. That role was the break I had been waiting for. I have since then worked towards achieving my dream of being able to handle a whole project by myself.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
Recently I was given a project to complete and implement on my own with guidance from a senior engineer. This would be my first project where I have strong input into the design, documentation and commissioning of the whole project. I consider it as a major milestone in my career.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE IDEA OF BEING A ROLE MODEL TO YOUNGER FEMALES IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
I would be honoured to be considered as a role model to the younger generation – I have a young daughter myself who I hope will be inspired to start a career in engineering. It is a very rewarding field.
DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT FOR THE FUTURE OF THE INDUSTRY TO ENCOURAGE GIRLS IN STEM SUBJECTS IN SCHOOL?
The engineering industry has been experiencing a persistent skill shortage. By encouraging girls into STEM subjects the industry can tap into a wider resource pool and address that shortage. A talented STEM workforce with good gender diversity leads to better solutions and services.
IS THERE A FEMALE COLLEAGUE WHO HAS PARTICULARLY INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR CAREER AND HOW HAS SHE DONE THIS?
I have not had the opportunity to work with a lot of female colleagues. However, I do not base my inspirations on gender. I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of brilliant minds and that’s what inspires me to constantly thrive to be better at what I do. Even the one or two female colleagues that I have been able to work with have been brilliant problem solvers. There is no limitations to what a great mind can achieve.
HOW HAS YOUR COMPANY SUPPORTED YOU IN YOUR CAREER AS A FEMALE IN THE ENGINEERING SECTOR?
I have amazing mentors in my company who support and guide me to achieve my career goals. From the project manager who gave me my first project to complete, to the line manager who kindly guided me whenever I was stuck and did not know how to proceed. At no time have the management showed any gender-based discrimination and has always provided me with opportunities based on my skills rather than any other factor.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CHAMPION THE EFFORTS OF WOMEN IN THE ENGINEERING FIELD?
You need gender diversity in the workforce to bring new and creative solutions to different client requirements. Greater gender diversity also contributes to better teams and higher productivity. Highlighting the efforts of women in the engineering field would inspire more women to pursue careers as engineers especially since there is a national skill shortage.
In society, women engineers are underrepresented. Hence there is a misconception that engineering is only for boys. At grassroot level, change in attitude and thinking can only happen if there is a conscious effort made to discuss the efforts of women in the engineering field.
HAS THE ENGINEERING SECTOR CHANGED ITS ATTITUDE TOWARDS WOMEN OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR CAREER?
I believe that the engineering sector has a long way to go in its attitude towards women, especially when it comes to working on sites. With more exposure to women engineers, the site work culture will slowly change. For example, I have noticed multiple times when workers on site are taken aback when they notice a female in PPE. There are fewer female comfort stations on sites and in some places, it can even be a challenge to find one.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE ENGINEERING INDUSTRY CAN FURTHER ADAPT AND IMPROVE TO EMBRACE FEMALE ENGINEERS?
Because the engineering industry is still dominated mainly by men the working environment and expectations are still predominantly based on having a male majority workforce. This is especially significant in some cases; for example maternity break. Working on remote locations can be daunting for females, hence, opportunities of that nature are passed to male colleagues. More improvements need to be made to make working conditions safe.
Being a female engineer with a young family, I am the preliminary contact for my child. This means there will be instances where I need to leave on short notice. While work is being carried out on-site it can be really difficult as you cannot possibly leave in the middle. This inability to be flexible is a barrier holding women engineers back and possibly stopping others from joining.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR ENGINEERING AND THE WOMEN WHO WORK IN THE SECTOR?
With more and more women joining the engineering field, the existing work culture and attitudes are slowly changing. Women are given more opportunities and support than ever before to pursue a career in any engineering field. It is good to be part of the change.
We hope you come away from this blog feeling inspired, if you are seeking a new role or would like to discuss your career options, do not hesitate to get in touch with us today!
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