Mentoring platform launched for women in aerospace and aviation to help reduce gender inequality in the industry

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A new online mentoring platform could help professional women working in the aerospace and aviation industry progress their careers by connecting them with female mentors in the sector. Launched on 8th March, International Women’s Day 2019, the platform is part of the ‘alta’ mentoring scheme, which began four years ago and is a partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), Airbus, Little Blue Private Jets and the Royal Air Force, with additional support from Collins Aerospace.

“The UK is the country in Europe that has the least amount of women in engineering and this includes the aerospace industry, where there is a chronic shortage of women,” said UWE Bristol project leader Sue Durbin, who is Professor in Human Resource Management at UWE Bristol and specialises in gender inequalities in employment in male dominated industries.

“Through this project, we want to empower women to gain confidence by receiving non-judgmental female-to-female advice and support, thereby enabling their careers to take off.”

Professional women working in the aerospace and aviation sectors who want guidance can use the platform to help them link up with a suitable female mentor. Both are required to answer a series of questions online, based on which the website’s algorithm matches up the mentee with a compatible mentor.

After initial contact, both parties are free to arrange when, where and how often they meet. All meetings and correspondence can be planned through the platform, providing a place for both parties to maintain their mentoring relationship in a safe, secure and confidential online environment.

The alta mentoring scheme, funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the founding partners, looks to change the way females are perceived in male-dominated industries and aims to put an end to gender inequality in engineering. As well as helping women receive career guidance, the platform also helps mentors raise their profile in the profession.

The new platform, is run by the Royal Aeronautical Society and is part of the Society’s commitment to delivering on the pledges it made as a supporter of the Women in Aviation Charter. The charter was signed by government and industry at Farnborough Air Show last July.

In addition to the platform, there will be alta networking and mentoring events throughout the year to help mentors and mentees meet face to face, as well as provide insights into career development and management.

Sarah Minett, chair of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Women in Aerospace and Aviation Committee, said: “Our new alta platform will provide a fantastic source of support, enabling women to connect with experienced females in key roles in the industry, including senior leadership, flight deck and engineering roles. We hope to see greater retention of women within the sector as well as more women returning to the industry after caring breaks. In turn this will contribute to companies’ efforts to close the gender pay gap and help build more balanced and diverse organisations.”

Professor Durbin said: “Such assistance can help women feel valued, assist them in getting into leadership positions, and increase female retention in the industry. It might also help them gain confidence, receive assistance when they are returning to work after a maternity break, or reduce their suffering from ‘impostor syndrome,’ whereby they feel they don’t deserve to thrive in a male-dominated workplace.”

The mentoring project comes at a time when many young women who take STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are failing to enter the engineering workforce, given the gender stereotyping that can exist in the sector, according to Professor Durbin.

Women engineers also often drop out of the industry or fail to return after maternity leave. “This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as a ‘leaky pipeline’, a metaphor used to describe the continuous loss of women in STEM as they climb the career ladder,” said Durbin.

Judith Milne, founder of Little Blue Private Jets said: “We are keen advocates of the positive power of networking and alta will be a wonderful diverse network of people from across the industry all focused on a common theme. Success breeds success and women helping women can only lead to positive outcomes for the women involved and the industry as a whole.”

The alta partners worked with mentoring platform specialist Perform Learn Develop to develop the online tool. The platform also contains a wealth of information to support the mentoring journey, including videos produced by the alta partners, a dedicated handbook with in-depth advice and guidance as well access to other mentoring materials produced by Perform, Learn and Develop.

Organisations wishing to become more involved in alta can also join as alta supporters by making a small donation to ensure its ongoing development and support, and the ability to hold networking events. In this way, companies can help their female professionals receive mentoring from across the industry – not just from someone in their company. 

This post was originally published on the UWE Bristol news site on 08/03/19.

Three UWE EDM women featured as Bristol’s brilliant women in STEM

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On Thursday 7th March 2019, Bristol 24/7 published an article on “Nine of Bristol’s brilliant women in STEM“. We are absolutely delighted, and very proud, that three of those women – a third of the total – are from UWE Bristol’s Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics.

The work and achievements of Dr Lisa Brodie (Head of Department), Professor Catherine Hobbs (Associate Dean Research and Enterprise) and Dr Laura Fogg Rogers (Senior Research Fellow) are highlighted in the piece by Ellie Pipe, about women in Bristol breaking the mould and making their way in what remains a very male dominated-field.

Read all about them, and their advice for other women in STEM, here.

IWD2019 – FARSCOPE blog on being a woman in STEM

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Laura Gemmell, a student on the joint UWE Bristol and University of Bristol doctoral programme FARSCOPE, has written a blog post all about being a woman in STEM, in celebration of International Women’s Day.

“Now we can all agree we need women, how do we get more women into industries where they are under-represented, like robotics?”

Read the post, “Superwomen – Putting the human in superhuman”, here!

Join us for a Wikithon celebrating women in engineering

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On Wednesday 3rd April 2019, alongside our Women Like Me celebration, UWE Bristol will be linking up with the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and Heritage Open Days to host a Wikithon celebrating women in engineering, and the WES Centenary year.

Extraordinary Women in Engineering: a WES Wikithon – UWE Bristol

Come and join us to develop your digital skills and learn more about editing Wikipedia. Help to celebrate brilliant women engineers by creating and improving their pages on the world’s favourite online historical record.

Complete beginners and experienced editors, all are welcome to attend – we’ll provide training for anyone new to editing. If you already have some wiki editing experience, we can help you improve your skills and learn a few new tricks. If you’ve spotted an article that needs improving, bring along your queries and we’ll see what we can do to help. Suggestions for articles to improve and create will also be provided, along with research resources.

Training will take place 09:30-10:00 with the Wikithon drop-in running 10:00-14:00. Please sign up for this FREE event on Eventbrite.

You are also welcome to attend the Women Like Me session on women’s mentoring running between 12:00 and 14:00; please sign up here.

BAME Girls in Engineering celebrates International Women’s Day with Rolls Royce

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On Friday 8th March 2019, UWE Bristol project BAME Girls in Engineering celebrated International Women’s Day with a visit to Rolls Royce.

The project team, led by Dr Udonna Okeke, took BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicity) girls from City Academy Bristol to the Rolls Royce site in Filton for half a day. They received an inspirational presentation session by successful women at Rolls Royce from across the world, tours around the different facilities and a networking session with senior leadership and employees of Rolls Royce.

Udonna told us:

“The students left the event highly inspired, knowing that they can be the next generation of engineers that can impact the world.”

Don’t forget to sign up to the Tech3Shed careers event!

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The Women’s Tech Hub~Bristol are hosting a careers fair in March, aimed at increasing diversity in the tech industry in the South West. Running on 15th and 16th March 2019, it’s free to all and all are welcome (but please be aware that it is a recruiter-free event). See below for more information from the Hub, and sign up to attend here.

The Bristol and South West tech industry is currently booming and we’re all aware that finding talent and keeping them has never been so difficult. We also know that careers change, people can learn and there’s a wealth of amazing people in the area who simply didn’t take up tech as an option. That, along with a variety of Universities, Colleges and training establishments in the area all creating talented tech graduates who we would love to stay in the region.

With all of this in mind we decided that we could help sort out some of these problems by working together so with the HBBWTHub and Desklodge we came up with the power of three, set out to curate a Careers Fair and named it Tech³Shed (everything is Bristol is called Shed so we thought we may as well follow the trend!).

We know that the best way of finding a great job, or finding a great team member is far easier in a relaxed atmosphere and through getting to know them. We also know that recruitment fairs can be intimidating and that the world of tech can be slightly confusing for those on the outside. So we decided that we would put the two together and run workshops to help demistify things, introduce trainers and other options to help get you into tech and invite our members down to chat to the candidates and show what they have to offer.

Please note that this is a recruiter free event, any recruiters found approaching attendees or exhibitors will be asked to leave.

For more details see


Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?

The Event is for over 18’s – under 18’s must be accompanied by an adult and be over 14

Women Like Me engineer Rachel Kirkwood engages another 1161 pupils for Leaders Award

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Following a very successful online presentation for the Leaders Award in January by Rachel Kirkwood, graduate engineer at Peter Brett Associates and participant in our Women Like Me programme, she was invited back to deliver another! Rachel’s second presentation took place on Thursday 28th February 2019, reaching 1161 pupils in 10 schools across the UK.

Before the presentation, Rachel gave a taster of what she’d be talking about, and it sounds like she made a great impression on the students in her talk:

“We just wanted to say thank you very much for organising this event. Our pupils found Rachel’s talk very interesting and they were inspired by her passion for her job and for her enthusiastic responses to all of the questions. Thank you from all of us at Craigrothie Primary School.”

The Leaders Award is supported by UWE Bristol and 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. If you’d like to take part in the Leaders Award as an engineer or school, please get in touch with the team.

FREE event: Women Like Me – Boosting mentoring for women in STEM in the West of England

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As our Royal Academy of Engineering funded project, Women Like Me, draws to a close for this year, we are hosting a celebration event at UWE Bristol:

Wednesday 3rd April 2019

12-2 pm

1R26, R block, North Entrance, UWE Bristol Frenchay Campus


Sign up on Eventbrite

Women Like Me – Boosting mentoring for women in STEM in the West of England

The West of England is home to an impressive list of STEM industries, and all are working to improve participation for women in STEM. As well as recruiting more women into STEM, we also need to think about retaining our talented workforce. Mentoring Schemes can help to do just that, with research showing that mentoring from other experienced women is a key factor in creating a welcoming workplace culture.

This event brings together our leading players in women’s mentoring across the West of England, to explore how we can support each other and learn from best practice. Organised by UWE Bristol’s Women Like Me project for engineering mentoring, the network also connects with Women in Science and Engineering Bristol, the Women’s Engineering Society centenary and Curiosity Connections Bristol.

The event includes lunch and a keynote talk on women’s mentoring, followed by a workshop to develop further connections between mentoring schemes.

Please sign up to come and join us!

Hinkley C new drilling kit is named after SARAH GUPPY!

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Along with three tunnel boring machines named after inspirational women, new drilling kit which will be used at the new Hinkley C power station is to be named after Sarah Guppy – engineer, pioneer and subject of Show of Strength‘s recent stage show. Producer Sheila Hannon tells us more in this guest post:

‘Sarah Guppy’ will be used to dig sections of the water outlet structure for three 1,200 tonne boring machines that will construct the new power station’s 3.3 kilometers of tunnels to be built underneath the sea bed.

Sarah Guppy says, ‘I’m absolutely delighted and how very appropriate. The world’s first underwater tunnel was the Thames Tunnel, designed and built by my friends and fellow engineers Marc and Isambard Brunel. Their innovative ‘tunneling shield’ principle has been used for nearly 200 years. It’s taken rather longer for my contribution to engineering to be recognised, but I’m thrilled to be associated with a project that both connects the past to the future and acknowledges my family’s strong Somerset links.

My award-winning show SARAH GUPPY: THE BRIDGE, THE BED, THE TRUTH is available if you’d like to know more about my remarkable life and work.

Performer: Kim Hicks, photo Zuleika Henry.

Construction News’ Inspire Me Bristol Workshop – 28th February 2019

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Construction News’ campaign, “Inspire Me” promotes the role of women as leaders in the construction industry. See below and the Workshops and Events page for information about the campaign and the next workshop, to be held in Bristol:

” to promote the role of women as leaders in the construction industry. See below and the Workshops and Events page for information about the campaign and the first workshop, to be held in Bristol:

Construction News’ Inspire Me campaign aims to promote the role of women as leaders in the construction industry and inspire future leaders and promote the industry as being gender neutral, welcoming of women in all roles.

The principle aim of the campaign is to empower women with the knowledge and confidence to advance their careers to senior positions within the construction sector.

To this end we are organising regional workshop sessions, with prominent speakers drawing on their own experience and success as well as best practice, to deliver indispensable career advice to women.

And what’s more, they’re free to attend for you and your colleagues!

Each workshop breakfast will provide an opportunity to:

  • Network with prominent diversity ambassadors from both inside of and outside the sector.
  • Learn and be inspired by industry leaders and peers.
  • Get inspirational and practical advice on how to progress your career.

Inspire Me Bristol Workshop – 28th February 2019

The first workshop is at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel and is focused on ‘language as barriers’ with sessions on gender-neutral job descriptions, inappropriate language and vocal techniques. 

Speakers will include

  • Susan Room, professional voice and executive coach
  • Rick Lee, chief people officer, Willmott Dixon
  • Andrea Singh, director of HR, BAM
  • Nick Langdon, chairman, CGL
  • Lizzie Featherstone, head of business information tools, Taylor Woodrow