‘Are you sure you know how to do it?’ and other BS female engineers have to put up with
Girls wear hard hats too
Turn on the TV to watch DIY SOS or Grand Designs, you’ll see middle- aged, slightly overweight men in high vis and hard hats. I’m an engineer. I like buildings, and construction sites are actually quite cool. Let me guess, right now you’re most likely picturing a guy?
Now, picture a girl.
Geeky, glasses and basically sober? No, just because girls study Engineering it doesn’t mean we're a Gap hoodie, boot cut jean, Trespass rucksack wearing boring student. I’m a sport loving, dress and heels blonde gal from the south coast. Challenging stereotypes much?
If you're a female engineer, when you tell people what you study they’ll try to hide their surprised faces – it's a face female engineers are used to.
Being the only girl, and in fact one of the only students from my college studying engineering at university, I wasn't in shortage of being asked about my choice of degree. Popular comments include “well you won’t be in shortage of boys there”, as if us girls would pick our degree with pulling in mind.
Engineering is hard, there’s no avoiding that. But we don’t all fall in the stereotype that many people have of engineers. I don't live in the library, I've got a social life managing to make every Wednesday sport social, and then wake up in time for every Thursday 9am lecture following that.
It’s not unusual to be the only girl in a group project, however the repeating phrase “I’ll do that”, or “are you sure you know how to do it”, is one I and probably all female engineers are fed up with. Don’t treat us like we're not capable, we got onto the same course as you.
Engineering is one degree where stereotypes need to be defeated. Young girls who enjoy problem solving, maths, and want to continue their passion need to be supported, not put off. With the UK having the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe with less than 10 per cent, it’s not surprising that the image of Bob the Builder sticks in young children's heads. We need more Wendy’s in today's society.
The UK doesn’t lack in female engineer role models, but if I asked you to name one, could you? Take Linda Miller, an ex-paratrooper and helicopter pilot, her CV isn’t short of impressive feats. Try and find her now and she’ll likely be underground as Project Manager on Crossrail.
Being a woman shouldn't limit what we are told we are capable of. On June 23rd, for National Women in Engineering Day, we need to celebrate women in this industry and help grow to become a society where more girls are supported in this career path.
Oh, and if you want to find me this summer? I'll be busy working on placement on a construction site. My outfit of choice? Full high vis, helmet and all the other PPE. Yep they do ladies versions too.