Laura studied for a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of the West of England (UWE) before joining the Bus Engineering graduate scheme at FirstGroup. She recently shared her story in an interview with Prospects, helping students discover what it’s like to be a maintenance engineer.
In the interview Laura speaks about why she chose a career in engineering, a typically male-dominated industry, and gives her insight into how we might increase female representation – through relatable role models and more opportunity for girls to engage with engineering activities at a young age.
Girls also need to see more representation of people that look like them in engineering roles.
She also mentions becoming a member of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) after attending conferences as a student at UWE, and how these experiences helped increase her confidence and develop supportive networks, allowing her to create a women’s engineering society whilst studying for her degree.
The issues raised in Laura’s interview are incredibly important. With women currently representing just 12% of the UK engineering workforce, more needs to be done to encourage and support girls to study and pursue a career in engineering and help retain those women already in the industry.
UWE Bristol’s peer mentoring programme Women Like Me aims to address these issues head on.
Women Like Me pairs mid-career women engineers with junior women engineers, and provides career and public engagement mentoring. As part of the programme, junior engineers deliver engineering engagement activities in local schools and at local public events, providing positive role models for young girls. Through this approach, the project will lead to impact both in the workplace today, and for the future of the engineering profession.
Women Like Me pairs senior women engineers with junior women engineers to undertake mentoring and engineering education outreach in the West of England region. Engineering is a creative, socially conscious, and collaborative discipline, and this project aims to support girls and women to make a difference in society.
Why is this important?
Only 12% of engineers in the UK are women. In order to support female engineers, more girls need to connect with engineering as a career, with positive female role models, and more women need to be supported to make a difference in the workplace.
Women Like Me is addressing this by pairing mid-career women engineers with junior women engineers to provide career and public engagement mentoring. Junior engineers will deliver engineering engagement activities in local schools and at local public events, providing positive role models for young girls. Through this approach, the project will lead to impact both in the workplace today, and for the future of the engineering profession.
Who can take part?
Mid-career and early career female engineers working in the West of England region can get involved in the project. Senior women engineers are those who have been working in engineering for at least five years. Junior women engineers are those with less experience than this, and can include apprentices, trainees, undergraduate and postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
What will it involve?
We will offer networking opportunities to all participants at the start (autumn 2020) and end (summer 2021) of the project. Depending on COVID restrictions, these may take place virtually. Senior engineers will receive support in mentoring and should meet with their junior engineer mentee at least twice during the project. This can take any form that best suits each pair. Junior engineers will receive mentoring support from senior engineers and training in public engagement. They will then undertake at least three engineering outreach activities with local schools and public events, which again, may be virtual. Coordination of activity is provided and supported by UWE.
How do I sign up?
To take part in the project this year, participants should complete the DETI Diversity Demonstrator survey and select Women Like Me from the list of areas of interest (along with any other areas you are interested in!) byFriday 4th December. The project coordinators will then be in touch having allocated the mentor/mentee pairs.
The Department of Engineering Design & Mathematics (EDM) at UWE Bristol have signed up to the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Ten Steps.
As only 24% of the core-STEM workforce in the UK, women are the largest pool of under-represented talent in the country’s STEM-based industries. To tackle this, WISE developed the Ten Steps framework to help businesses achieve greater balance in their workforces.
As an action-driven, evidence-based approach, which was developed in consultation with industry partners, the Ten Steps supports organisations to improve recruitment, retention and progression of women; something that is also at the core of UWE’s Women Like Me tiered mentoring and outreach programme for women in engineering. Women Like Me launches for 2020-2021 with an online event on 12th November, including an introduction to the Ten Steps, women’s mentoring and outreach for under-represented groups.
What are the Ten Steps?
Signatories to the Ten Steps first complete a diagnostic tool, which highlights current strengths and areas that can be used to further improve workforce balance. This links to core principles, the ‘Ten Steps’:
Understand the starting point
Creative job design
Transparent progression opportunities
Equitable sponsorship of female talent
Promote retention and development of women
Treat this a business improvement
Share learning and good practice
EDM is already doing great work in all these areas, including achieving an Athena Swan Bronze Award. This success will be built on further as the department becomes one of the latest WISE Ten Steps signatories, and will particularly focus on making even more improvements in areas such as flexible working and changing mindsets.
The Ten Steps framework operates through the lens of a cultural backdrop driving the low representation of women in STEM industries in the UK, particularly in comparison to equivalent sectors in other parts of the world. Again, in close alignment with the principles of Women Like Me, the approach aims to increase the number of visible female role models in senior STEM positions, in turn making STEM-based career choices more appealing to girls, as they can see people ‘like them’ working and succeeding in these fields. WISE works with signatories to share practice and experiences, and enable them to learn from each other to improve balance and support for women across the sector. These insights will also be useful in improving representation for other groups, ultimately driving the workforce to become more diverse and accessible to all.
The Engineering Design and Mathematics (EDM) department at UWE Bristol have been taking part in Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, an annual campaign that highlights to young people that engineering is a creative, problem solving, exciting career that improves the world around us.
Throughout the week engineering institutions, employers and schools come together to show young people the vital importance of engineering careers and to provide information about how to become an engineer in the future. This year EDM have been contributing to the campaign through their social media channels, organising a Digital Engineering Careers Fair for young people and, rather excitingly, signing up to the Tomorrow’s Engineers Code.
Launched in October 2020, the Tomorrow’s Engineers Code is a commitment to work toward common goals to increase the diversity and number of young people entering engineering careers. To achieve these goals, Signatories make four pledges about their approach to funding, designing, delivering, and learning from engineering-inspiration activities (including STEM programmes dedicated to inspiring young people into engineering).
Improve the quality, inclusivity, targeting and reach of activities designed to inspire young people
Deliver a joined-up approach to drive change at scale
The EDM department is extremely well placed to deliver on these pledges, with several well established programmes that aim to increase diversity within engineering already running, including mentoring programmes such as Women Like Me and BAME Girls into Engineering. EDM also supports primary (Curiosity Connections) and secondary (Future Quest) engagement providers, and the department’s new DETI Inspire team are currently developing a new targeted approach to develop and deliver engineering outreach to under-represented groups.
As a core provider of public engagement in the region and champion of equality, diversity and inclusion, the EDM department is confident in its ability to fulfil these pledges. We are very pleased to be joining the Code Community, and look forward to working together to inspire a diverse engineering workforce for the future.
Lisa Brodie, Head of Department: Engineering Design and Mathematics
DETI Inspire will map past engagement activities in the region, identifying any gaps in current outreach provision, enabling the prioritisation of outreach to those that do not currently interact with engineering-inspiration activities.
With expert advice and guidance from collaborations with organisations such as AFBE-UK and WISE, the team are developing curriculum linked engagement activities, designed to help target and understand potential participants from under-represented groups. Activities will be available for use both digitally during the current pandemic, and when physical activity can resume, they will tour schools and run out of the new Prototype and Play centre at UWE Bristol’s Engineering Building.
In order to showcase relatable role models from all backgrounds in these activities, the team are building a Diversity Demonstratornetwork – a community of diverse engineering role models, from groups currently under-represented in engineering, who will deliver engineering public engagement throughout the region.
The team are currently working with STEM Ambassadors West of England, Future Quest and the WECA Careers Hub to develop a monitoring and evaluation toolkit, to assess the impact of their activities, and will share these insights with their partners, stakeholders and the Code Community.
Co-created by and for the engineering community, The Code is ‘owned’ by its community of Signatories and Supporters.An Advisory Board and informal Thinking Group support EngineeringUK, which has been chosen to manage and deliver The Code and its community. EngineeringUK will facilitate the governance of The Code and is committed to a formal biennial review of The Code and how Signatories are meeting the pledges.
We’d like to thank This is Engineering for use of images from their public image library that aims to better represent what engineers and engineering really look like. The feature image for this blog of a young woman using a VR headset is copyright of the Institution of Engineering and Technology & Callum Wood Ford.
Bristol Technology Festival takes place online, 9th – 15th November 2020
Bristol’s Technology Festival was born in 2019 seeking to showcase the sheer breadth of technology that had been developed in the local ecosystem, and share the stories of those entrepreneurs, engineers and creatives behind the technology with the people of the city, and further afield. It seeks to destroy any barriers between technology businesses, their suppliers, educational and charity organisations and the residents of the community that they live and work in.
Events like these are more important now than ever before, with the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changing how we work and live, technologies are playing a crucial role in keeping our communities functional and connected in a time of lockdowns and quarantines.
This year’s festival will be delivered virtually. With a jam packed schedule of workshops, webinars, discussion panels, inspirational talks and networking events, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Themes for this year include diversity, inclusivity and sustainability and the DETI Inspire team from the Engineering Design and Mathematics department at UWE Bristol will be delivering events throughout the week.
Digital Engineering Careers Event, Mon 9th – Fri 13th November
The Digital Engineering Technology Innovation (DETI) Inspire team will be delivering a week-long careers fair for children aged 14+, themed on digital engineering.
The event will be hosted on the Like To Be online platform, where students will have access to inspirational videos from a diverse group of engineering professionals, sharing stories of their engineering journey, exploring the digital tools and technologies they use within their role and discussing how engineering can make a difference to people’s lives and help solve real-world problems.
Alongside these careers talks, students will have the opportunity to explore potential employment and development opportunities on offer from local employers, chat with real-life engineers and ask questions during several live Q&A sessions being held throughout the week, including a session from EDM’s very own Maryam Lamere, Doctoral Researcher and Associate Lecturer, who will be ready to answer questions about her research on the innovative Pee Power project, a technology that converts urine and other types of wastewater into electricity.
Supporting Women and Girls in Engineering, Thursday 12th November
Only 12% of the UK’s engineers are women. Research shows that girls need to see women succeeding in STEM to feel that STEM is a potential career path for them.
Women Like Me is a peer mentoring and outreach project aimed at boosting female representation in engineering. The project pairs senior women engineers with junior women engineers to give them mentoring support as they start out in their engineering careers.
In turn, junior women undertake engineering education outreach in schools and at public events in the Bristol and Bath area. Engineering is a creative, socially conscious, and collaborative discipline, and this project aims to support girls and women to make a difference in society.
Join us for the launch event of Women Like Me 2020/21! Find out how the project will be running this year and what digital outreach opportunities are available. Network with other women engineers, and listen to inspirational speakers, including Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, Senior Lecturer at UWE Bristol and Lead for the DETI Inspire project, and Sarah Behenna from the WISE Campaign. You can sign up to the event here.
If you would like more information on either of these upcoming events, or would like to be involved with similar events in the future, please contact the DETI Inspire team. A full line up of the Bristol Technology Festival events can be found here.
The Engineering Design and Mathematics (EDM) department at UWE Bristol are delighted to announce their new membership with the Association For Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE).
AFBE is a registered not-for profit organisation that promotes higher achievements in education and engineering, particularly among people from black and minority ethnicity (BME) backgrounds using engineering as a platform.
Since launching the organisation in 2007 they have reached more than 6500 individuals from ethnic minority communities, supported more than 1000 university students into employment through their CV clinics and career programmes and engaged more than 4000 young people with their school outreach programme Making Engineering Hot.
Support for Schools
With a range of workshops and outreach programmes available for schools and their local communities, which focus on young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and other under-represented communities, AFBE provide a mixture of after school clubs, weekend mentoring, one day projects and mock assessment days for apprenticeships.
Support for Students
Their hugely successful Transition Programme reaches university students across several UK universities, preparing and mentoring students for professional careers in industry. To date 70% of Transition attendees have gone on to secure jobs in industry within 12 months post-graduation.
Support for Professionals
AFBE have produced several publications and continue to work closely with leading organisations, including the Royal Academy of Engineering on various steering and focus groups to map out the life-cycle of a BME professional in industry and understand levers for retention and progression. They host many networking events and webinars throughout the year, which give professional members access to leading thought leadership within industry, mentoring from industry experts and exposure to real life projects within the industry. Other initiatives like their Real Projects and Chess Club give professionals ongoing professional development support including mentoring for professional registration.
Engineering is essential for the future prosperity and economic growth of the UK, however there is a growing skills gap within the industry. Lack of diversity is a major concern for the engineering workforce, with only 12% of women engineers and 7% from a BME background. Widening participation in under-represented groups is an essential part of addressing this nationwide skills and employment gap.
In order to tackle this challenge, the EDM department, as leader for skills development for the Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) initiative, have launched their new DETI Inspire programme, which will champion STEM for children in the West of England, with a particular focus on challenging stereotypes and perceptions about STEM careers in order to appeal to under-represented groups in engineering.
The EDM department is a proud leader of skills development for DETI, with a strong commitment to increase diversity, we have several great projects already underway such as BAME girls into Engineering, a strong Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity committee, and of course our Athena SWAN Bronze Award. We are very pleased to support AFBE as part of our work with DETI to expand support for BAME young people, our students and staff, and engineering employees across the region.
Lisa Brodie, Head of Department: Engineering Design and Mathematics
With the recent launch of their Diversity Demonstrator, a network of diverse engineering students and professionals, the team hope to inspire the next generation of engineers, providing engineering outreach, mentoring and role modelling to all children in the region. For more information or to sign up to the Diversity Demonstrator engineering network, complete this short survey.
If you are a current UWE student or member of staff and would like more information on the support available to you from the department or AFBE, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Were you the first in your family to go to university?
If so, Future Quest would like you to share your story as part of their #IAmFirstGen campaign.
What is #IAmFirstGen?
The #IAmFirstGen campaign aims to highlight that anyone can study at university, regardless of their background, and that there are lots of different journeys into higher education.
One barrier to young people attending university is often that they don’t see themselves as belonging at a university, as they think that there is nobody like them studying at degree level. The campaign plans to dispel this myth by showcasing different stories from graduates.
To do this, #IAmFirstGen will bring together companies, organisations, and individuals across the South West to form a community of students and graduates that are the first in their family to study at degree level. This pool of ‘first in family’ ambassadors will highlight the diversity of educational journeys and career pathways that people in various sectors have followed and support the progression of young people who possess skills and talent, but who do not have the networks or connections in their chosen sector.
By telling personal stories, the transformative power of higher education experiences can be shared with young people from first generation backgrounds to help build their expectations and create their own narrative for the future.
Who can take part?
There a few different ways to get involved, whether you are an individual, small social enterprise or large business.
Individuals: Become a First Gen Ambassador. Commit to sharing personal stories of your journey to and through higher education and onto your current employment, and support First Gen learners to build their own stories.
First Gen Employers: Commit to targeted outreach and graduate recruitment activities to further the opportunities for First Gen learners, with support from UWE Bristol and the Future Quest Outreach Hub.
What do you need to do?
First Gen Ambassadors: If you are a first generation graduate, share your experiences by writing a Letter To Previous Self. You can find downloadable guidance and examples of letters here.
First Gen Employers: Show your support by sharing news of the campaign with your colleagues and networks and help to reach people that may be able to contribute a letter.
We know that organisations are increasingly recognising the value of diversity and want to support the social mobility agenda. More than 500 organisations, including UWE Bristol, have signed the Social Mobility Pledge, committing to closing opportunity gaps and working together to address inequalities. Supporting #IAmFirstGen will enable your business to further social mobility and celebrate first generation graduate colleagues.
Future Quest is a collaborative outreach project based at UWE Bristol, providing targeted outreach in areas where progression into higher education is lower than might be predicted from GCSE results. For more information about Future Quest or the #IAmFirstGen campaign please contact the team via email@example.com
Building to Break Barriers is a new outreach project that aims to engage children from under-represented groups with engineering, using the computer game Minecraft, which allows players to build almost limitless creations.
The project will co-produce ten new engineering outreach sessions with engineers, children, and young people, and deliver them around the UK. To increase representation, the children involved will be from under-represented groups, and so will some of the engineers. Engineers will receive outreach training and support throughout the project. Activity will take place online during COVID-19 restrictions.
Building to Break Barriers is a Science Hunters project. Science Hunters uses Minecraft to engage children with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) for three key reasons:
Minecraft has various features which represent items and processes in the real world. This makes it ideal for communicating about, and building understanding of, a range of scientific concepts.
The game can be used in different modes on a range of hardware, including Creative mode, which allows unlimited building and therefore has high flexibility.
Children and schools
UK children and schools are invited to participate in co-designing outreach sessions with the project team and engineers. This may look different for each school and child, and could include: contributing an idea for a session topic, voting on a selection of session topics, suggesting hands-on resources, or designing part of a Minecraft challenge. They will also be able, circumstances permitting, to trial or take part in the developed sessions.
Ideally, this project would take place in schools. During COVID-19 restrictions, these elements can be conducted remotely with children who are either attending school (supported by teaching staff) or learning from home (with family support). The specific approach for each school will be discussed individually with staff.
Engineers will also have the opportunity to co-design and deliver outreach sessions. This may be directly with schools and children as above, with Minecraft Clubs for specific groups, at public events, or with the project team (activities dependent on COVID-19 restrictions). Engineers will be able to choose their type and level of involvement to suit them.
Engineers will also receive 1:1 outreach training and have the opportunity to participate in group discussions, which will be conducted remotely to improve access and inclusion (e.g. for those with caring responsibilities).
Children, their teachers and parents/carers, and engineers will all be asked to provide evaluative information and will be able to contribute to the project’s ongoing direction and development.
Who can take part?
This project aims to reach children who may face barriers to accessing educational opportunities and have characteristics that mean they are under-represented in Engineering.
The project has a particular focus on supporting:
Women and girls
People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
People from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds (e.g. eligible for Pupil Premium, or from areas with low progression to Higher Education)
Looked After Children/Care leavers
Under-represented groups can also include people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicities, with disabilities or long-term illnesses, in rural areas or limited access to services, who were/would be the first generation in the their family to go to university, who are carers/young carers, and with English as an Additional Language (NB this list is not exhaustive).
Representation is really important in enabling young people to feel that engineering is ‘for them’, so engineers who fall (or would have fallen, as children) into these groups are particularly encouraged to join the project.
Engineers can be from any engineering field, based in the UK. Whilst we recognise the value of undergraduate students, we are not able to offer places to them for this project. UWE provides public engagement training for undergraduate engineering students through the Engineering and Society module.
Schools who are interested in being involved should contact Laura and Sophie on ExtendingSTEM@uwe.ac.uk. Unless already involved with Science Hunters, parents/carers of children should ask their child’s school to contact us.
Engineers who are interested in being involved can complete an expression of interest here, and will be contacted when outreach can begin. Engineers in the West of England can also become part of the new initiative for Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) Diversity Demonstrator database of diverse engineering role models; sign up to the mailing list here.
The project ends in January 2022. For more information or if you have any questions, please contact Laura and Sophie at ExtendingSTEM@uwe.ac.uk
Exciting work is underway within the EDM department at UWE Bristol, as we begin establishing the Diversity Demonstrator as part of our work for the Inspire branch of DETI Skills.
The Inspire branch of DETI aims to address the nationwide skills and employment gap in engineering by championing science for children in the West of England. In order to appeal to under-represented groups and so increase diversity in the profession, DETI Inspire will particularly focus on breaking stereotypes and challenging perceptions about STEM careers.
One of the ways we hope to achieve this is by shaping a Diversity Demonstrator – a network of diverse engineering role models to champion engineering public engagement and inspire the next generation of digital engineers.
Why are role models important?
“You can’t be what you can’t see”
Marian Wright Edelman
Children need to be able to see engineering as ‘for them’. They need access to positive role models who look like them, to help connect with it as a career and visualize themselves as an engineer.
This is particularly important for children from under-represented groups within the industry, including those from low socio-economic backgrounds, girls, black and minority ethnic individuals.
So if you are a current student, alumni, staff or industry professional and would like to be part of our network of diverse engineering role models, please register your interest with this short survey
Black British Professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are an amazing non-profit organisation that aim to encourage, enable, and energise individuals in business, industry, and education to widen participation and contribution of Black individuals in STEM.
And they have an ever-growing network of professional members who are ready and waiting to provide one-to-one mentoring for University students.
So if you are a black student studying a STEM-related subject – sign up as a BBSTEM student member, and then request your very own mentor!
The mentors on the BBSTEM database are of a range of ethnicities and from diverse industries all across the country – with mentoring sessions delivered virtually.
Mentors attend training and there is a thorough matching process to ensure that the mentor assigned can help with specific student needs.
Why mentoring? There is a black attainment gap at university and the rate of employment for black graduates is lower than their white counterparts. BBSTEM want to change this. Their principal mission is to have Black parity in the UK’s STEM workforce and the student ‘Bridge Mentoring Scheme’ is one way they are enabling career advice and introductions to professional networks to enhance the job prospects of black British students.
UWE staff – do you want to sign up as a professional member of BBSTEM and begin mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers?
And PhD students and post-docs – BBSTEM have set up a Slack group for black postgraduates to discuss more specific challenges faced after your undergraduate degree. And there are some professors thrown in to give their two-cents!