Today is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), a global day celebrating all the amazing work of women engineers across the globe. The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #MakeSafetySeen.
To shine a spotlight on the important work of women within the engineering sector, Expleo sat down with Stirling Dynamics Graduate Engineer, Ildem Baymaz, and Expleo Developing Engineering, Freya Brunt, to discuss their experiences so far on their engineering journey.
Q: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your career?
Freya: I am a recent graduate from Northumbria University Newcastle with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. During my degree I completed a placement year at Collins Aerospace. Working at Expleo has been my first job in the engineering field since graduating so I am still fairly new to the engineering work environment as I have only been at Expleo for about six months.
Ildem: I am originally from Turkey, but I moved to UK in 2017 to pursue my bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Manchester. Soon after graduating, I started my first job at Stirling Dynamics as a graduate engineer at the Control, Simulation and Dynamics team.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the type of projects you work on and your role in them?
Freya: My current role primarily involves using CAD (SolidWorks) to design and produce bespoke flight simulators for pilot training., primarily for fighter jet planes where the pilot would fly solo. As the pilot’s first flight in this type of plane would be solo, the real life accuracy of the simulation needed to be high quality.
Ildem: At Stirling Dynamics, I’ve to work on a variety of projects. So far, most of my work has been on landing gear, particularly on the extension-retraction system and landing gear loads. I also worked on hydraulic and electromechanical actuators and their control in different aircraft. I am mostly responsible for building mathematical models of different aircraft systems to run simulations, compare the results with the physical system to have confidence in the model and use it to simulate different scenarios depending on the project needs.
Q: The theme of this year’s International Women in Engineering Day is #MakeSafetySeen, highlighting the importance of safety in engineering and how women contribute to it. How important an aspect is safety in the work that you do as an engineer and how do you think we can raise the profile of safety in the discipline?
Freya: Safety as a whole is a huge part of every aspect of engineering, an important aspect of safety in the work I do is confidentiality and keeping data safe.
Ildem: Safety is very much embedded in my work through my own checks for accuracy of reports and multiple checking loops before document release to provide accurate and precise results. These checks enforce safety and provide confidence in the system. Safety awareness can be raised through more business-wide safety training. Equipping all engineers with a solid foundation in safety will shape the industry culture to spread awareness and for everyone to feel that safety is their responsibility as well.
Q: What made you want to take up a career in engineering?
Freya: Becoming an engineer allows me to work on finding solutions to real world problems while still being creative. Having always been fascinated with advancements in both technology and engineering, becoming an engineer myself has allowed me to start to be involved in them.
Ildem: Growing up, I was mostly interested in mathematics and science classes so I always knew I wanted to pursue a technical career. I still remember how impressed I was when I first flew in an airplane and that feeling has stayed with me every time I’ve been on one since. Working in the industry, I still find myself fascinated by planes almost every day.
Q: How do you find working as a woman engineer? What could we be doing more or less of to improve?
Freya: I think navigating any new environment can be nerve-racking, especially in a field where women are typically outnumbered. Though I have found my time here to be very welcoming and don’t often notice the gender gap. New initiatives have started recently in Expleo such as women at Expleo and InnovateHER. Promoting awareness of the problem is key for it to improve.
Ildem: Although women are a minority at Stirling Dynamics, they played a huge part in the development of the company, with tools and learning materials created by them being used by many engineers in their daily work. I believe having women in leadership positions and the impact their work has in the industry helped my confidence working here and don’t feel any different than any engineer working here. Ensuring equal opportunities for women in the workplace, creating mentorship programs to give them career advice, raising awareness about gender stereotypes and recognition of their achievements company and industry wide may help improving the experience offered to women engineers.
Q: Figures from the Women’s Engineering Society, the group behind INWED, suggest that only around 16.5% of engineers in the UK are women, why do you think that is and what can be done to achieve greater balance?
Freya: Unfortunately there is a lot of misunderstanding as to what engineering actually is and what engineers do. I think most women, especially younger women, still see it as a very binary subject which lacks creativity. To achieve a greater gender balance within engineering I think that it is important to broadcast that engineering is a very varied field that covers almost everything that you see and use in your day to day life. It can be practical, creative, logical, and lots more.
Ildem: I think this is due to engineering being a male-dominated field for generations… Although I know a lot of effort has been put to raise awareness, I believe it would have a bigger impact if more women were promoting it, especially to younger generations.
Q: Were you inspired by a woman in your career?
Freya: Though the percentage of women involved in engineering is relatively low, there are many influential women from whom I’ve been inspired by, both during and before starting my career in engineering. Christina Koch for example is someone who I have taken inspiration from as she broke the record for the longest single space flight by a woman as well as taking part in the first all-female spacewalk back in October 2019. Space and aeronautical engineering has always been a passion of mine and is one of the reasons why I became an engineer.
Ildem: I didn’t know any women engineers while I was growing up so had no role models. However, I would say I was inspired by my high school mathematics teacher. She always had a different but impressive way of thinking when she faced a problem, which made me want to see and understand the world like her. I also find myself inspired by my female colleagues within Stirling Dynamics. Their contributions are greatly recognized by everyone in the company.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self as you were deciding on a career path?
Freya: I think I would tell my younger self to not spend time dwelling on what other people may think and just go for it or opportunities will pass you by and you’ll never know what you’ll achieve.
Ildem: I would say don’t be discouraged by anyone and keep your goals high! Acknowledge the difficulties that will come with choosing to pursue this career in a different country but believe in your abilities more. Also, don’t be afraid to ask even more questions.
UK Comms Manager (Expleo)
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