Women Like Me engineer Jess Henson on her role and women in engineering

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Our Women Like Me engineer Jess Henson, a Development Engineer at Renishaw‘s Neurological Products Division, has been featured recently in publications such as Education in Science, Future Magazine and Engineer’s Journal, talking about her role, how she got there and women in engineering. Renishaw have kindly allowed us to reproduce their interview with Jess in full here. 

Renishaw celebrates International Women in Engineering Day

The global engineering technologies company Renishaw is hosting a number of activities this year to promote engineering as a positive career choice for women, including an activity day for young women and their parents, readings of the new ‘Little Miss Inventor’ book at local primary schools and a special cinema evening for the movie ‘Hidden Figures’.

Renishaw has over 130 trained STEM Ambassadors, a third of whom are women, including Jess Henson, a Development Engineer at the company’s Neurological Products Division who answers a series of questions about her role and women in engineering:

 

What inspired you to become an engineer?

At school I always enjoyed science, particularly the practical experiments, where you get the chance to apply what you’ve learnt from a textbook. I also enjoyed art, although at the time I didn’t appreciate how this would help me in an engineering career with creativity and problem solving. Going on an engineering experience event was a key moment in understanding what an engineering career would actually be like.

 

What is biomedical engineering?

Applying engineering principles to the body and to healthcare is the fundamental aspect of biomedical engineering. For example, studying forces and how they relate to the movement of a prosthetic arm, or applying fluid movement to determine the blood flow in arteries.

Biomedical engineering isn’t a well-known field. In general, people think engineering is mechanical or electrical, but it is so much more.

 

How did you find out about biomedical engineering?

I’d never heard of biomedical engineering until I came across it in a university prospectus.

When I discovered it, I realised I could combine my biology, maths, physics and art and apply my skills to solving real life problems.

It seemed a more hands on and multidisciplinary subject than pure maths on its own.

I went on to study biomedical engineering at Imperial College London, before taking on a graduate role at Renishaw. During my graduate training, I completed rotations around the company, taking up a role in the Spectroscopy Products Division testing a new pharmaceutical analyser and a role in the Medical and Dental Products Division rebranding a product as a medical device. I also worked in the Neurological Products Division for a year, looking at how to make brain surgery more efficient.

 

What does your job involve day-to-day?

I’m a Development Engineer at Renishaw’s Neurological Products Division, where I design, develop and test new products for brain surgery. This combines skills from biology, maths and physics, as well as the creative skills learnt from art. For example, I’ve used trigonometry to calculate surgical trajectories – something I could never have imagined during my maths lessons at school.

At the moment I’m working on the development of a new device to attach onto the end of our neurosurgical robot, which in combination with other new devices we hope will extend and enhance the lives of cancer patients. This a very rewarding area where I’ll be able to see how my work will affect people’s lives.

 

What is your advice to young women considering engineering careers?

Choosing what you want to study can be scary. The best way to narrow it down is to gain experience. To keep your options open I’d suggest choosing either science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects or a STEM apprenticeship.

Girls shouldn’t be put off by the stereotypes.

There is a broad range of engineering careers out there from designers to customer facing roles. I’d recommend an apprenticeship or graduate placement at a company like Renishaw where you can experience a range of positions across different company divisions.

People are often surprised when I tell them I am an engineer. After all, only nine per cent of engineers in the UK are female. If we want this to change we need more girls to study physics, engineering and maths and a greater awareness of the scope of engineering careers, which many may be surprised to discover stretches to brain surgery.  We need to inform parents, teachers and young people what engineering really is and how they can apply what they are learning first hand.

UK-based Renishaw is a world leading engineering technologies company, supplying products used for applications as diverse as jet engine and wind turbine manufacture, through to dentistry and brain surgery. It has over 4,500 employees located in the 35 countries where it has wholly owned subsidiary operations.

This interview (or parts of it) has been used in print in: Education in Science, Future Magazine and the WES Autumn newsletter and online by: The Engineer, Ed Quarter, Education Technology, Engineer’s Journal, Machines 4 Sale, Machine Building and the WES Autumn newsletter.

UWE Bristol team to build winning Leaders Award design

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In 2018, Year of Engineering, UWE Bristol was a partner organisation of the Primary Engineer & Secondary Engineer Leaders Awards in the South West of England, along with DE&S  (the MOD’s Defence, Equipment and Support organisation).

As part of the competition, school pupils met and learnt from engineering students and professionals, before answering the question:

by identifying a problem in society that engineering could solve and devising a solution.

Shortlisted and winning entries were displayed at an exhibition at UWE Bristol in June. A team of UWE Bristol engineering students:

have now picked one of the winning designs to turn into reality. The team are part of UWE’s Women in Science and Engineering student society and Katy is also a participant in our Women Like Me mentoring and outreach project supporting women and girls in engineering.

The team picked the design of Philippa Griffiths, a Year 7 student at Hugh Sexey CE Middle School in Somerset. Philippa designed the RLBS (Red Line Braking System) to display red lights to alert other drivers of the severity of the braking and levels of attention needed, with the aim of reducing fatalities on our roads.
Olesya explained why they chose Philippa’s design to make:

“We all agreed as a team on the design choice, because its practicality and feasibility suit our view and needs in the project. It will provide a great marketing look as well as provoking interest for children, as we are planning for them to physically test the final prototype! It’s a fantastic opportunity for us and we are all looking forward to see this project coming true!”

Mechanical engineer Brad Squires (President of Engineers Without Borders at UWE) will support and advise the project team as they begin to build Philippa’s design. They are hoping to visit Philippa and her classmates at their school as the project progresses. Watch this space!

Year of Engineering celebrated at Westminster Abbey

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As 2018, the Year of Engineering, draws to a close, the contribution of engineering and engineers to society was recognised yesterday (22nd November 2018) in a national celebration at Westminster Abbey.

The service, led by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, marked the government’s Year of Engineering and the bicentenary of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and shone a spotlight on the contribution the profession makes to inspiring the next generation. It was the first of its kind and jointly organised by HM Government, ICE, and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), funder of our Women Like Me project supporting women and girls in engineering.

 

Roma Agrawal MBE, Associate Director at AECOM, and Colonel Deborah Porter, Deputy Commander of the Defence Medical Group, gave testimonies on how engineering had changed their lives and enabled them to help and inspire others through their work. Children from local schools were invited to attend, with reflection on how industry and government have joined forces throughout 2018 to bring engineering to life for young people from all backgrounds – and the importance of this continuing in 2019 and beyond.

You can find out more, including quotes from Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, ICE President Andrew Wyllie CBE and President of the Royal Academy of Engineers Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS from the UK Government, details of the service from Westminster Abbey, and contents of the talks from The Engineer. Images are from the reports linked.

“Engineering is a hugely diverse profession open to all”

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Our Women Like Me engineer Eleanor Davies, structural engineer at BuroHappold, gave a very successful Leaders AwardMeet an Engineer‘ interview for the Leaders Award on 21st November. Eleanor told us more about her experience of giving the presentation in her guest post below. 

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to talk to over 1300 children at primary school about what engineering is and what I do. Primary Engineer Leaders Award uses video calls to allow engineers to explain what they do to children and answer their questions in real time. This is a great way to engage many more children than simply going into one classroom, and to give them an understanding of what engineers actually look like and do. This is especially powerful at a young age when children are still curious about the world around them and stereotypes have not been formed.

 

In particular, I really enjoyed answering the many insightful questions asked. It definitely brought back good memories of damming streams on the beach in Wales, watching Megastructures on TV and gave me a chance to reflect on my career so far. Hopefully, it also showed that engineering is a hugely diverse profession open to all. It offers amazing opportunities to apply maths and science to solve real world problems and to come up with tangible solutions that you can be proud of.

Engineers who would like to support Primary Engineer / The Leaders Award can find out more here. Schools which would like to participate in Meet an Engineer interviews can find more information here.

Women Like Me engineer Eleanor Davies presents to 1334 children for Leaders Awards

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UWE Bristol is delighted to be supporting the Primary Engineer and Secondary Engineer Leaders Awards again this year, and even more pleased that some of our Women Like Me engineers are taking part in online ‘Meet an Engineer‘ interviews with school students around the UK as part of this.

Eleanor Davies, a structural engineer at BuroHappold, is one of those engineers and is currently presenting online to 1334 children. So successfully, that the Leaders Awards would like her to come back!

 

 

You can find out more about the Leaders Awards in the video below, or by visiting their website.

“Working towards a world where we can all do what we are passionate about”

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As we were delighted to announce last week, our Women Like Me participant Jessica Poole Mather of Rolls Royce won the WISE One to Watch Award on 15th November. In this guest post, Jess tells us more about how she got to where she is and her experiences so far as a woman in engineering.

As a small child, I don’t think I would ever have thought I would be given an award for my stubbornness, for doing jigsaw puzzles, and existing so completely in my own fantasy world that I would talk to beetles and birds over other children. Looking back, I wonder now if I had been a boy, maybe I would have been called “adventurous”, or “independent”, or even “scientific”.

I’m now 23, and I’m an engineer at Rolls-Royce, stubborn as ever, now around changing perceptions of women in science, and working towards my dream world where we’re not destroying our planet with its own resources, and where people’s careers are pursued not because of how they’re labelled but because of what they want to do.

I was lucky enough to attend the WISE Awards this year, winning the One To Watch award alongside Alexandra Lawson, an engineer at Shell. We were both overexcited and stunned, and it only added to the confusion that I don’t think either of us spends much time wearing high heels – walking up the stairs to the stage was perhaps more challenging than it should have been.

Growing up, throughout university, and since I’ve started work I’ve had the most incredible support network and role models, particularly my mum. I admit I was a little nervous going to start work at a large corporation as an engineer, when my degree had been in chemistry and I knew I would be one of the only women on the team. I won’t say I haven’t had any negative experiences, but those have been easily outweighed by some extremely positive ones, including a series of phenomenal line managers who always seemed to back me to do anything, and two brilliant mentors who I could go to for support.

In turn, I’m trying my best to do my bit to help other women into STEM. I’ve taken on multiple mentoring schemes, spoken at outreach events and careers fairs to children of a range of ages and to university students. Unfortunately, I occasionally catch my own unconscious bias where I’ve ended up talking about STEM to girls at these events more than boys!

The WISE campaign is an incredible scheme, made up of a group of people I’m extremely proud to be a part of, all working towards the same goal: diversity and inclusion in the workplace, whether that’s gender, race or physical or neurological disabilities, and working towards a world where we can all do what we are passionate about.

UK on target to reach 1 million women in STEM by 2020 – but work is still to be done

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The WISE Awards on 15th November saw the announcement that new research by WISE has revealed that the UK is on track to have 1 million women working in core STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) roles by 2020.

The report on workplace statistics in 2018 shows that there are over 900,000 women working in STEM in the UK at present. Based on current enrolment of women on A level, degree and equivalent courses, a further 200,000 women with STEM qualifications are predicted to enter the workforce within the next two years.

WISE reported that “in her welcome speech, HRH, The Princess Royal, said the WISE goal of reaching 1 million women in STEM was within reach if employers could recruit just half of the 200,000 thousand girls estimated to be studying STEM subjects. She also said it was very important to continue to encourage girls to be curious and explore the opportunities opened by science, technology and engineering.”

According to the report, almost 58,000 (12%) women are working as professional engineers. This is more than double the number in 2013, which is excellent news.

However, there is still work to be done; due to an increase in men also entering STEM roles, there was a 0.3% drop in the percentage of women in the core STEM workforce and growth for women is 1% lower than the growth percentage for men.

Our Royal Academy of Engineering funded project Women Like Me is supported by WISE and supports the recruitment of women into engineering, and retention of women in engineering roles, via tiered mentoring which sees senior women engineers support junior women engineers, who in turn undertake outreach as role models for girls. These statistics are both encouraging and demonstrate that work such as ours is vital.

You can find more statistics from the WISE report here and read more about related speeches at the WISE Awards here.

Figures showing numbers of women in STEM sourced from the 2018 WISE report on workplace statistics.

Women Like Me engineer Jessica Poole Mather wins WISE One to Watch Award

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We were delighted to hear that our Women Like Me engineer Jessica Poole Mather was announced as winner of the ‘One to Watch’ Award at the WISE Awards on 15th November.

Jessica, who is undertaking outreach activities with us as part of Women Like Me, is an Engineering Graduate Trainee at Rolls-Royce PLC. She was chosen for the award alongside Alexandra Lawson, Operations Supervisor at Shell.

The award, sponsored by Intel, looked “to identify young women aged 25 and under on the date of the Awards, 15 November 2018, who are working to change the image of girls and women working in STEM. This Award is designed to identify and share stories of girls and young women who are passionate about STEM and good at what they do – not just when studying or at work but throughout day-to-day lives too.”

WISE reported that the judges could not come to a conclusion on “one to watch” as there were clearly “two to watch” that stood out as ultimate winners, and agreed that combining this dynamic duo with their unique individual strengths and passion would be a winning team for WISE and taking STEM initiatives to the next level as true ambassadors.

Congratulations to Jess from the Women Like Me team!

ASE Girls into Science resources and making a difference

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The Association for Science Education (ASE) website offers a range of girls into science‘ resources, with articles from leading women in science, primary activities, and global projects. These are a useful resource for anyone wanting to encourage girls to think about Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects as relevant to them, including the engineers taking part in our Women Like Me programme for supporting women and girls in engineering.

Still too low

“The overall proportion of girls taking physics A-level has remained stubbornly close to 20% for the last three decades.”

“Girls perform just as well as boys in physics at GCSE. However, in 2016, only 1.9% of girls chose A-level physics, compared to 6.5% of boys. This represents 5,669 girls compared to 21,032 boys.” – Why Not Physics? Report from IOP, 2018  

 Statistics and the arguments are laid out in the September issue of ASE’s Education in Science, in an article on the Institute of Physics’ work in the area.

Could your school make a difference for girls in STEM?

The Department for Education (DfE) and the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) are looking for state-funded secondary schools to test interventions to get more girls to take STEM A-levels. The pilot is promised not to be burdensome and participating schools can access free resources, targeted interventions and a bespoke report on how they can inspire girls. Email: kathryn.atherton@bi.team

Women’s Engineering Society Industry Mentoring Scheme launches at UWE Bristol

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Final year female students in Engineering and related disciplines at UWE Bristol are to receive mentoring from professionals in industry through a Women’s Engineering Society (WES) scheme.

A group of students planning to take up employment after they graduate will be supported by an external mentor who will guide them in considering their options and help them to make a successful transition from University to work.

The free programme is launching at UWE Bristol on 22nd November 2018 with training introduce the WES scheme, discussing matching with mentors, and explaining how to get the best out of the scheme. It complements our Royal Academy of Engineering funded Women Like Me programme for female engineers post-graduation by providing mentoring for female undergraduate engineers.

Mentoring is provided through the Women’s Engineering Society and is funded by a grant from the Arconic Foundation.