Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day at King Edward VII School, Sheffield

‘If you can dream it, you can do it’

Inspiring the Next Generation of Engineers and Computer Scientists


Continuing the positive relationship with King Edward VII school,  Gaia Innovation delivered the 2018 ‘Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day’ on 29 June.

This year’s event, again sponsored by Arm UK, attracted 130 female students from across South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire, including King Edwards VII, King Ecgbert School, Meadowhead School, Chaucer School, Sheffield Park Academy, Netherwood Academy, Trinity Academy, Maltby Academy, Rossington All Saints and The Manor Academy.

Focused on careers in engineering and computer sciences, the full day’s activities included information on career routes, education and skills, delivered through a combination of inspirational speeches and engaging interactive activities.

King Edward VII’s Head Teacher Linda Gooden’s welcoming address highlighted the positive impact of the previous year’s event (also organised by Gaia Innovation) on the female students in 2017.

Following an explanation of Arm UK’s work by Rob Harrison (Arm UK Engineering Director in Central Engineering Systems),  students were encouraged by Salma Siddiqi, IT consultant, TLA Women in Technician and STEM Advocate, to challenge themselves and be unafraid to follow their ambitions. She added that women in the UK fill only 10% of all engineering jobs and that this needs to change.

Students then took part in three interactive sessions, including the ‘Autonomous Bit Bot Challenge’ from Arm UK, a ‘Jet Engine’ engineering challenge from Rolls Royce, and a programming equipment activity (to aid people with impaired vision) created by Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam University.

Before taking a break for lunch, the students heard from Nicola Gough, Head of Department – Closures Engineering at Bentley Motors about her career path from Daewoo to Ford to Bentley. She added that two quotes are intrinsic to her key beliefs: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it’ (Walt Disney) and ‘The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it’ (Michelangelo).

The afternoon session began with an overview of Sheffield University’s work, as lecturer Dr Heidi Christensen explained how it is helping people with speech impediments.

There followed a career speed-networking session with 21 female professionals from engineering and computer science, who spoke with the students about their working lives and personal stories. The professionals included:
Nicola Gough, Head of Department – Closures Engineering at Bentley Motors
Louisa Wilson, Elizba Joseph and Ishita Chatterjee, Arm UK
Dr Heidi Christensen, Anete Zepa & Sohyun Park from Sheffield University
Anna Georgiadou, Sheffield Hallam University
Salma Siddiqi, IT Consultant, TLA Women in Technology & STEM Advocate
Olivia Earls & Sophie Jackson, Engineers at Rolls-Royce
Jocelyn Gittens, Victoria Mawson, Jodi Allott & Daniela Sawyer from the AMRC
Marta Garcia-Santamaria, Jaguar Land Rover
Charlotte Hill & Claire Tunnard from Gripple
Teri-Leigh Gillespie, Senior Liaison Metallurgist at Liberty Steel
Mandy Calvert, Quince Consultancy

In closing the event, Julia Muir, CEO Gaia Innovation spoke about the changing world of the 4th industrial revolution, how jobs will transform or disappear, and why female students should consider future careers in science, engineering and technology sectors.

She said: “Think about the person you want to be, the lifestyle you want to have, the environment you want to work in, the people you want to work with. The job you may be happiest in probably doesn’t even exist yet.”

Emphasising how technology is now embedded in our lives, she noted: “Your generation has no memory of life without them, and your use of technology means you are influencing and controlling the present day. This country needs more women to design, build and create technological products, the cyber physical systems, so that machines think in a gender-balanced way.”

She added: “We need you to use your creativity, imagination, empathy, caring and communication skills to steer the way technology changes the world, and we need a diversity of designers, engineers and technologists to make sure it will actually work for our diverse population.”

Julia concluded: “The are really no ‘men’s jobs’ or ‘women’s jobs’, only highly paid or low paid, secure or insecure, fulfilling or boring. Make your choice with that in mind, and don’t just follow the crowd of girls to where they are going – choose your own path.”

Reaction from speakers and students was positive and encouraging.

Nicola Gough said: “It’s really important to get the message out there to the girls. Meeting female role models in engineering and computer science is really good. I was impressed with the amount of engagement between the professionals and the female students, and there was a lot of listening. I really hope we got through to some of them! The Career Speed Networking event was excellent. Hopefully, we inspired the female students to go home and investigate further careers in engineering and computer science.”

Mandy Calvert from Quince Consultancy noted the high degree of engagement and energy from the student’, adding: “I think they learnt a lot.”

And a student remarked on her surprise in finding “engineering is not just about physical strength, but communication skills.” She added: “I was also surprised to find out all the different areas of engineering.”

Salma Siddiqi commented: “I think these kind of events are important. We know there’s a huge skills shortage in STEM and in engineering. We discussed the stats earlier: 10% of female engineers in the UK, the lowest in Europe. We absolutely have to shake this off now, we are all responsible in taking action. Events like these engage and inspire the younger generations and the people in those professions – and the talent pool comes together. I think we need to go forward and hold more events like these to ensure everyone is aware there is a huge skills gap,  and to bring in diversity to shorten and lessen that gender gap.”

To sum the event up, a student commented “I absolutely loved every second, it was interesting, exciting and an experience I will NEVER forget.”