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International Women’s Day: education is the key to driving change

International Women’s Day: education is the key to driving change

Our graduate Civil and Structural engineer, Alicia Mistry joined the BE Design family full-time following her graduation from the University of Sheffield in June 2019, having initially completed two summer placements with us as part of her degree. Alicia has been working on a number of prestigious projects such a food processing facility in Scotland and a multimillion manufacturing facility. For International Women’s Day, Alicia discusses the need for drive for change through education and representation in order to strike a real gender balance in engineering.

Days like International Women’s Day and International Women in Engineering Day (which takes place every June) play a really important role in celebrating the women in our sphere and their successes. However, I think two of the most important things to encourage more women to enter the industry are to champion our female role models and to challenge the common stereotypes associated with engineering.

The student population is so diverse, so it’s important that companies consider and reflect this when working with universities on student engagement.

My first contact with BE Design was with our director Anna Tsartsari at a university careers fair. She was one of the few women in attendance, so she was someone I naturally gravitated towards, especially as I was on a course where there were many more male than female students. Now, a couple of years on, I am working closely with Anna to ensure that we continue to provide that representation to future students in order to increase the numbers of women pursuing engineering careers after university.

As part of this, BE Design is supporting careers events and keeping our links with the University of Sheffield. This sees me going back to work with students on a regular basis as an industrial mentor to assist students with skills such as networking and providing feedback on their projects from an external perspective. Having gone through this exact process in the last few years I understand just how valuable insight from someone working in the industry can be.

Lecturers take time to speak with myself and other industrial mentors about the latest updates in practise, which helps them update the courses and the way students are taught to ensure it prepares them for getting hands-on with real life projects.

Universities are beginning to get better at challenging stereotypes that are typically associated with engineering. For example, physics is no longer a required entry grade for engineering courses – contrary to what many people believe. However, there is still a way to go to dispel other myths, shed more light on what we actually do day-to-day and to get rid of the view that engineering is a ‘masculine’ career.

There is an ongoing skills shortage in the construction industry as a whole and bringing more women into the fold is one way to tackle this. At BE Design we will be continuing to do all we can to tackle stereotypes and encourage more students – both male and female – into the industry, working both with universities and schools to educate students that working in engineering is a fantastic and rewarding career.

International Women’s Day is on Sunday 8 March – join the conversation on Twitter using #IWD2020

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