Chess continues to celebrate Women in Engineering
JUNE 23, 2023
As of the latest figures in 2021, female engineers make up just 16.5% of all engineers in the UK, which amounts to just 936,000 of the engineering workforces.
Celebrating its 10th year, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) continues to help increase the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on some of the career opportunities in the industry, and Chess Dynamics wishes to do the same!
Helen Hubbard, our Senior Systems Engineer in Plymouth, tells us about what motivated her to become an engineer, and how it feels to be a woman in a predominantly male field.
Why did you want to become an engineer?
Growing up, my dad was a signaller in the Royal Marines, and he was very interested in computing and the latest technology, so we had a house full of computers and electronic components in various states of assembly/disassembly. When PCs, games consoles, and the first commercial internet service in the early 90s became available in homes, we got them all.
We never really went on holidays and always had old broken cars, but we always had lots of computers - so I suppose I was indoctrinated when I was quite young. He showed me how to write some basic programs in Pascal on our home computers and I found the problem-solving part of computer programming really interesting. I ended up studying Computer Science at university (although it was a close call between that and photography, so I could have had a very different life!)
What do you enjoy most about your work as an engineer?
It’s still the problem solving for me, it’s interesting to think about different ways around a problem, to research and learn everything you can and then (hopefully) come up with a neat solution.
How does it feel to be a woman in such a male dominated sector?
It’s become the norm for my working life. Growing up in the home I did, I was surprised when I got to university to find my course was about 95% men and I was one of very few women. I’ve since read that this is possibly due to the way home PCs were advertised in the 80s and 90s, as they very much targeting boys. Unfortunately, we are in a very slow recovery from this: numbers of women going into STEM hasn’t caught up much at all some time on.
Have there been any challengers on your road to become an engineer which you have faced due to being a woman? How have you overcome these?
I have been lucky to find some very interesting and very welcoming jobs along the way, but I would be lying if I said it has always been easy – I do feel at times I’ve been treated differently because I’m a woman. I remember being in a meeting with 10 other people, all men, and our senior manager apologising to me (and only me) very directly for swearing. Unfortunately, this is just one of the many small (and sometimes quite larger) examples for me of being treated differently.