What’s it like being a female engineer?

There is currently a shortage of engineers in the UK with a particular shortage of women – who make up only around 12% of the engineering workforce.  With International Women in Engineering Day taking place on 23rd June, it’s worth researching the different kinds of degree courses on offer, as well as the variety of specialisms that are out there, particularly if you are a female or non-binary student curious about the profession.                                                      

If you research engineering degree courses on UCAS, you’ll see that there are many different types of engineering programmes offered at universities.  Most Bachelor’s (BEng) degree programmes will last 3 years.  Other courses will be 4 years long if leading to an integrated Masters (MEng) programme.  Another option includes taking an extra year in industry as part of either course – this is known as a sandwich degree.  We caught up with one of our former engineering students Amy Leggett-Auld who did just that.   

So Amy, what degree did you study at City?

Civil Engineer, Amy Leggett-Auld

I studied an MEng in Civil Engineering (previously with Architecture) with an extra year in industry making the course five years in total.  

What inspired you to spend a year in industry as part of your degree? 

The year in industry was excellent.  I got to spend it at Evolve, a company providing services related to structural engineering on buildings.

Here I got involved in projects and was able to utilise the theoretical skills I learned on my degree.  I also felt very supported during this placement and as an added bonus, I got paid too.  What’s more, I was also offered a job on graduation and I’ve been here ever since!

What inspired you to enter engineering?

I had a variety of jobs since leaving school.  I worked in retail and I also had experience in book-keeping, but I became inspired to pursue a career in engineering after watching a documentary which featured female engineers.  I enjoyed design, and maths came naturally to me, so I felt inspired to research engineering further and then enrolled at university as a mature student.

What subjects did you study at school that were useful for engineering?

As well as core GCSE Maths, I also studied GCSE Resistant Materials, which is an excellent subject for developing design skills.  Initially, I choose to study an Art and Design course after my GCSEs.  However, years later, I retook GCSEs in Biology and Physics.  I also took up self-study programmes in AS Level Physics and Geography and completed an A Level in Maths too.  I then studied an Access to Higher Education course. This is a year-long course (equivalent to A Levels) for students over the age of 19 wanting to go to university.

In your experience as an engineer, what’s a typical day like for you?

My role is very much office-based with plenty of variety and I am involved in several different projects geared towards the built environment.  I use specialist software, draw and sketch building designs, work and meet with different members of design teams – consulting on various designs and issues.  I also write up reports, visit building sites and do the maths that make buildings stand up!

What was the best part of your degree?

It was definitely my placement year at Evolve.  It solidified everything I was learning on my degree course and I got to meet other female engineers in a working environment too. 

What was the most challenging part of your degree?

The workload.  It’s challenging but you have to commit to it.  There’s a lot of written work, long lectures and exams to take but it’s worth it if you put the work in.  I worked incredibly hard and got a first!

What advice would you give female and non-binary students considering engineering as a career?

I would say ignore the stereotypes and misconceptions about engineering.  People often think of it as a job where you get dirty and wear PPE (personal protective equipment).  Don’t get me wrong, I do visit building sites but my job is very much office-based a lot of the time.  Also, when it comes to a degree course, remember there will be other females enrolled on it too!   There are also so many different types of engineers in the workplace and by studying an engineering degree, you are not limiting your options.

To find out more about a career in engineering, check out Tomorrow’s Engineers and start researching degree courses on UCAS. For information about women in engineering, get familiar with the Women’s Engineering Society and the Stemettes.   Also, read the “International Women in Engineering Day: Top 10 picks for girls interested in this career” post for some activities to keep you busy!

Happy International Women in Engineering Day!

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