Raising the Bar – International Women in Engineering Day

fullsizeoutput_3907fullsizeoutput_38c5Engineering is one of the most diverse and creative professions where young women can have a lot of impact. Two remarkable young women in our team are breaking new ground in engineering and showing the women can make a real impact in providing solutions to everyday challenges through engineering while also challenging gender stereotypes in each of their countries.

Meet Rachel Nyasulu, a Watipa scholar who is four years into a five-year Civil Engineering BSc at the University of Malawi. And meet Dr Sam Mudie, who is the Watipa Outreach Officer, and who gained an Industrial Doctorate in Engineering from the University of Reading in 2017.

Q: What motivates you?

Rachel: I am from a remote village in Malawi called Rumphi. Growing up in rampant poverty and poor infrastructure set a course for me to do something for my village. I opted to study a program that I knew could help me improve infrastructure around my home.

Sam: More than one in 10 girls think that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers are more suited for boys. This saddens me greatly. In modern society, it’s important to disregard stereotypes and it is partially for this reason I was inspired to gain my Doctorate in Engineering. I do not believe in introducing quotas – the person best for the job should get the job. Encouraging girls in to STEM at an early age, at home and at school, is obviously key to addressing the gender stereotypes that still exist.

Q: What is engineering like in your country?

Rachel: In my country engineering is a male dominated career. Ever since I was young I loved challenges. Since engineering is a problem-solving, resolution-oriented program, it has given me a chance to be a solution provider!

Sam: The UK has the smallest percentage of female engineers in Europe (91% male). There is of course a huge business case to attract more women in to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to bridge the skills gap. After all, women do make up 51% of the population! Every year the UK produces 36,000 less engineers than it actually needs.

Q: What is your dream?

Rachel: My dream is to set up a construction company that will build beautiful, reliable, safe and strong infrastructures in my community. In return this will provide people with employment, hence reducing the rate of unemployment in my country. Building innovative, safe and beautiful infrastructures will give me satisfaction for a lifetime. Providing solutions to everyday challenges through engineering will make me happy and satisfied.

Sam: I serve as a mentor and role model for young girls considering STEM subjects, and am also an ambassador with STEMNET. Recognition of some of the barriers of entry to women are an important part of achieving diversity, and diversity training of the hiring community might go someway to solving some of the issues. Once girls have chosen a career in STEM, they must be retained, reattracted and provided opportunities to flourish.

Keep up the pioneering work Rachel and Sam! And happy International Women in Engineering Day!

By Sam Mudie and Raheli Nyasulu

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