22 June 2021

Recognising role models and celebrating our #EngineeringHeroes, today and every day

mother helping daughter use her laptop

International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), is an annual event dedicated to women in the industry. Now in its eighth year, the theme for 2021 is about everyday heroes and celebrating the work of women engineers across the world.

In 2019, the UK hit a significant milestone with a record of one million females in core-STEM careers. 50,000 of these were identified as engineering professionals, nearly double the amount recorded in the previous decade. Engineering is a fantastic career choice for women but the outdated views and gender stereotypes of roles in this industry are often barriers.  

In the USA, Stanford University’s Computer Science department conducted research on why women don’t study the subject, a lack of role models was the key reason. There is a distinct absence of visibility for successful female developers. 

Looking beyond initial appearances  

An in-depth search on Google would prove there is a plethora of women who have made their mark on the industry; yet I encourage you to Google “famous engineers” and digest how many females emerge in the site’s top results.  

Without awareness days and conversations like these, prompted by the likes of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), it’s so easy to form assumptions that engineering is a “male oriented” industry and career choice.  

Society's overall preconceived ideas of professions related to gender hugely impact people’s choice in career. Because software engineering and computer science institutions have more male students, it is unsurprising that women feel under-represented, which can lead to a faltering in confidence and a lack of females applying or even considering a career in the industry.  

When Fionnghuala O'Reilly, 26, won the “Miss Universe Ireland” pageant in 2019, her #ReachForTheStars social media campaign not only focused on being the first woman of colour to win her title, but also shone a spotlight on women and diversity in STEM. Being an engineer herself, Fionnghuala discussed her career with NASA, and the challenges she faced breaking stereotypes. Remarkably, Fionnghuala is not the first of these pageant winners to promote STEM opportunities to their audiences. In fact, in this year’s Miss Universe contest, four of the finalists were also in STEM occupations.  

These women do a huge part in influencing the next generation and are not only changing misconceptions about engineers, they are forging a brand-new image of STEM ambassadors, giving credit to the organisations they work within. Gender stereotypes are instilled from a young age and this perpetuates into the way that young people, and particularly girls, view their career options. Seeing prominent, yet proud, vocal advocates for women’s rights and equality petitioning for change, ensures that female success and “worth” are redefined to go beyond physical appearance. 

Making an impact 

To ensure we are engaging and investing in our female workforce we must honour the contributions of women at all stages in their career. Maintaining a working environment and society that is supportive and actively promotive of inclusion will ensure we inspire and make a long-lasting impact.  

On the 23rd June we must all take time to celebrate the women we know in engineering, with the knowledge that campaigns like International Women in Engineering Day initiate conversations and accelerate change. The role models we have don’t need to be big celebrities, or award winners; quite often they are much closer to home.  

Here at MHR we have many remarkably talented women working in our engineering department and supporting business areas, and we endeavour to inspire more women to aim for a career in STEM and our business. If you’re looking for a change or are interested in starting your technology career with us, check out our latest vacancies.  

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Emily Hardwick MHR

Emily Hardwick

Emily is a Graduate Intern on MHR's graduate management scheme.

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