“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.

Old and new generations of roboticists come together at Bristol Women in Robotics meet-up

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This is a guest post by Dr Antonia Tzemanaki from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, who coordinates the Bristol Women in Robotics group. Women in Robotics Bristol/South West is part of a global professional network for women in robotics, such as our very own Women Like Me engineer Pavlina Theodosiouand women who want to be. They promote the visibility of women in robotics.

The most recent meet-up of the Bristol Women in Robotics group took place on Thursday 8th November 2018. 14 women attended, including staff from UWE Bristol, the University of Bristol and OpenBionics as well as new MSc and PhD students. It was a great mix between older and newer generations of roboticists and topics included internships, exchanging help on application writing and discussing future collaborations among others.

The next meetup will take place in the next couple of months, make sure to subscribe to our emailing list if you are interested and join our Slack channel. Ideas for events are always welcome!

You can also follow Bristol Women in Robotics on Twitter.

Show of Strength’s story of Sarah Guppy inspires in Bristol and Monmouth

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Show of Strength‘s Sarah Guppy: The Bridge, The Bed, The Truth has been showing this week in Bristol and Monmouth, opening to a full house and great reception.

In the Year of Engineering and Centenary of Women’s Suffrage, the show tells the story of Sarah Guppy, an engineer, inventor, campaigner, designer, reformer, writer, environmentalist and business woman.

Sarah moved to Bristol in 1795 when she married merchant Samuel Guppy. She supported Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was the mother of (along with another five children) Thomas Guppy, who worked with Brunel on many projects, including the SS Great Britain.

She was the first woman to formally designed and patent bridge, along with inventing other creations, such as an early teasmade which cooked eggs in its steam and an exercise bed. Sarah also mentored Brunel with his winning entry to design a bridge to span the Avon Gorge – the now iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The show drew many parallels with the present day and explicitly links Sarah’s achievements to the challenges experienced by women today, asking them to build on her pioneering steps. There was even a mention for some of our Women Like Me participants as shining examples of women currently shaping the future of engineering in Bristol. And Storysmith Books, Bristol’s new independent bookshop, were inspired by the show to create a display of books featuring women in STEM. Almost 250 years after her birth, Sarah Guppy continues to light the way for women in engineering.

Bristol and Bath to rival global innovation leaders says new report

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Our Women Like Me project features engineers from Rolls Royce and Airbus, both of which have been named as important drivers, along with several UWE Bristol facilities such as Future Space, the Health Technology hub and Bristol Robotics Laboratory, in making the Bristol and Bath city region one of the most exciting innovation clusters in the UK.

The following report is re-posted from UWE Bristol news and was originally published on 8th November 2018.

UK City region can aspire to the likes of Seattle

A major study by consultants SQW, leaders in the field of innovation and economic analysis, highlights that the Bristol and Bath city region is well positioned to rival the top innovation cities in the UK and across the world in the future.

The report has identified the city region as one of the most exciting innovation clusters in the UK with a portfolio of dynamic, home-grown businesses combined with inward investment in technology and knowledge-based sectors.

SQW, whose previous work has profiled the Cambridge Phenomenon and Oxfordshire Innovation Engine conclude that “with its pace of development and the potential going forward, the Bristol and Bath city region is well placed to become a global innovation force in the future”.

The study revealed a number of drivers behind the city region’s innovation success. Its innate culture of collaboration was singled out, boasting a strong interplay between specialist sector and local networks which bring together organisations and individuals from the fields of creative and cultural, high tech and digital, aerospace and advanced engineering, health and professional and financial services.

The success of these local networks is facilitated by the compact scale of the city-region, as well as the fact that many are privately funded and self-sufficient with little dependency on public funding. The network relationships also support a fluid workforce that has moved between the different industries that make up the innovation economy, supporting cross-sector working, technology transfer and collaboration opportunities.

The outstanding quality of life across the region with its rich mix of cultural and creative assets has been key to establishing a thriving innovation economy in the city region as it has enabled a workforce that is rooted in place and unlikely to go anywhere soon. This “stickiness” factor supports the retention of talented people, particularly graduates who have a commitment to “the place”.

With its concentration of talent, the city-region has made a name for itself in specialisms including high value product design, virtual reality, games technology, computer science and engineering, animation, digital design and publishing, TV and film and finance and business technology.

A particular driving force for innovation is one of the highest concentrations of higher education, research and innovation centres in the UK. There is the National Composite Centre set up by the University of Bristol which develops new technologies for the design and rapid manufacture of high quality composite products; CAMERA at the University of Bath, which explores motion capture and VR in gaming and health applications; Bristol Robotics Lab, a joint venture of the University of the West of England and University of Bristol; and the Centre for Creative Computing at Bath Spa University. New initiatives include Bath University’s Automotive Propulsion Institute, the Bristol VR Lab and UWE Bristol’s Health Technology hub.

Together the four Universities are a major source of graduate talent, meeting the needs of local businesses – over half of all graduates qualify in science, technology, engineering and maths and there is a strong focus on entrepreneurship and enterprise across many courses.

There is strong support as well for business start-up and growth with SETsquared incubators ranked the top in the world, at the University of Bath and University of Bristol’s Engine Shed; Future Space at University of the West of England; UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone; the Network for Creative Enterprise;; and the recently announced Creative Industries Cluster – a partnership of all four universities, the Watershed digital media centre and industry partners.

Another major factor which has established the city region as a major innovation force is the hard core of ‘anchor’ organisations and outstanding individuals across the two cities. Historically many current leading-edge companies in the city-region have their roots in earlier innovation, investment and business growth. UK semiconductor firm Inmos was a formative influence. Hewlett Packard, itself much smaller now than at its peak, has however been a major part of the technology landscape bringing thousands of engineers, scientists and consultants to the city, many of whom have gone on to work for other companies or start their own.

Aerospace giants Rolls Royce and Airbus draw on numerous suppliers and subcontractors. The MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, itself a massive employer, has also been a magnet for defence supply companies locally. Whilst the BBC and Aardman Animations have played a huge role in the evolution of the commercial TV and film-making industry which employs 3,700 people, the third largest cluster of its kind in the UK.

The report also shows how outstanding individuals in the innovation space have been instrumental in linking innovation and cultural assets to nascent businesses, established regional organisations, universities and other stakeholders across the city-region.

Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman of SQW Group, says: “The scale of achievement and the trajectory of development are such that the Bristol-Bath city-region already represents an innovation cluster of potentially global significance and one that could aspire, more ambitiously, to follow in the footsteps of North American power-houses such as Seattle or Boston.”

Tim Bowles, West of England Mayor, added: “This study shows that we are a great place to innovate and that we’ve got so much to offer innovators in the region and inward investors. It is important that we take on board recommendations of the report in order to build on the reputation we have worked so hard to establish over the years and fulfil our true global potential.

“That means making sure we bring through the next generation of innovation leaders in the region; create the conditions for firms to scale-up from start-ups to beyond medium sized businesses; further develop the specialist skills-base, as well as talent from all corners of the community, that will be critical to attracting investment by major technology corporates and enable rapid growth by local firms.

“We also need to address infrastructure challenges – affordable housing and employment space, congestion and mobility – to ensure we can accommodate the very best innovators in years to come and earn our right to be seen as a global force in innovation.”

Professor Steve West Chair of the West of England LEP and Vice Chancellor of the University of the West of England said: “This is a landmark study for us in the West of England, a real wake-up call. It is telling us how fantastic we are. But it is also telling us how much more we could achieve if we all work together to realise the potential that is identified here – and that means all of us recognising and getting behind the strengths of our business communities, innovators and entrepreneurs.”

For further information, access the full report here: Bristol-Bath Innovation Cluster Report 2018 (PDF)

UWE engineers to take part in Leaders Award online interviews

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Engineers from UWE Bristol’s Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics have been invited to take part in ‘Meet an Engineer‘ online interviews as part of Primary & Secondary Engineer Leaders Award, and Miriam Cristofoletti from the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol is taking up the challenge on 7th December.

The Leaders Award asks children “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”. This free competition asks students to find a problem, invent a solution, draw it, explain and send it in. Pupils are encouraged to both interview engineers and watch the online interviews.

Miriam, a student engineer in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, is looking forward to her interview and will be discussing, alongside her work, what it’s like being a student engineer. She says she’s taking part “mainly to inspire them, tell them never give up and that it’s OK not to have things working right the first time“.

Miriam has promised to update us on how it goes! Our Women Like Me engineers have also been keen to take part, and will report back too – watch this space!

If you’d like to take part in the Leaders Award as an engineer or school, please get in touch with the team.

We need more Engine-Ears

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This is a guest post from Louise Hetherington, assistant structural engineer at Atkins and participant in UWE Bristol’s Women Like Me programme. Louise has been involved in developing Engine-Ears, Atkins’ first STEM video for 7-11 years olds, and tells us more about it here.

Empowering young people to re-imagine STEM and change the future

STEM subjects excite us! So, for many years, SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business has been committed to promoting them to our local communities. Our strong STEM networks across our UK offices work tirelessly to be in classrooms and careers fairs, inspiring the next generation into Engineering and other STEM areas.

In the Year of Engineering we made the decision to reduce the age of our school target audience from 14 to seven. We wanted to reach out to younger children, their parents and influencers. Our goals were to inspire young minds into STEM subjects and at the same time, smash any stereotypes that exist around STEM careers.

Getting STEM animated

With support from Fifty One Films, the Atkins business created Engine-Ears. It’s an upbeat, catchy animation designed to appeal to children. The film explores what engineers do to shape the world around us in a relatable and understandable way. And it’s worked. With over 200,000 views on YouTube and other social media platforms, Engine-Ears has been delighting children all over the country.

 

Imagination-sparking resources

But we didn’t stop there. To accompany the video, we created a resource pack for teachers, pulling ideas from the video into classroom activities. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we believed sharing resources across the engineering community would be the most efficient way forward. So we used well known resources from other companies, referencing the good work they’ve done. Going forward we want to share our teacher pack and video with others in the industry, so together we can spread the message even further.

Diversity in early careers

The Atkins business has also created an inspiring video that encourages career seekers to consider a STEM profession. Rather than just focussing on engineering, the video highlights transport planning, civil engineering and architecture. By selecting other roles within the Atkins business, the video continues to highlight that diversity is key within the engineering community. Our aim is to widen the talent pool and not just encourage the stereotypical demographic to pursue a specific career.

Let’s shape the future together

We believe STEM promotion is most powerful when we work as a team. No one company or person can spread the message as well as a whole industry pulling together. The Atkins business is pushing forward to ensure there are fun and engaging STEM sessions in our offices and at local schools. But it’s not about promoting the company, it’s about promoting the subjects and careers available. We hope to share our knowledge and resources with others to shout the message louder. We all want the same thing – to make sure the engineers of the future know it’s a fantastic career path and it can be the right choice for them, regardless of their gender, race or background.

We need more people in STEM subjects, so let’s work together to achieve that.

To get involved, contact us here.