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How to empower the next generation of Women in Engineering

Meet Vicky Anderson,


A Senior Systems Engineer at KISPE Space.


With a technical background of M.Eng Electrical Engineering from the University of Bath and a Postgrad Diploma in Systems Engineering for Defence from Cranfield as well as 17 years as an Engineer in the Defence and Space Domains, Vicky knows 'what's what' in the current landscape of Systems Engineering in the U.K.




We caught up with her to understand more about how she's managed to set the standard as a female leader in engineering. ⬇️


What tips or lessons would you like to share with other women who want to move into such a male dominated industry?

This is a really good question. I have noticed a change in the demographic from when I started my engineering degree through to now but there are definitely still times when I am in a room and realise I am the only woman there! 


I have been in the fortunate position where (I think) I have been recognised as an engineer first and treated the same as all other engineers regardless of gender.  With a few (!) years’ experience under my belt now, the fact that the engineering industry is male dominated definitely bothers me less as I am much more confident in my own abilities and what I can do.


If I was to provide some advice to women who are starting in engineering, whether it be entering a degree course, undertaking an apprenticeship or moving into an engineering company is to remember that engineers, on the whole, are predisposed to work as a team. 


Engineering is not a solo sport – what a team can achieve far surpasses what an individual can do.  This means that common goals and working together forms a large part of what happens in the engineering world and this is agnostic of gender.


I would also advise looking for a mentor or coach that can provide support, and in a lot of organisations now there are female engineers at different levels that can help provide this.  If there isn’t that support within the organisation, then a lot of the professional bodies have groups or forums that encompass Early Careers or Diversity and this might be a source of support and networking that is useful.

 

How can the industry be better advocates for female leaders in both engineering and space?

I think a key aspect is visibility which is multifaceted.


There is firstly lifting the lid on what goes on behind the scenes.  It can be really hard to imagine what a role or industry might be like if you can’t see what it actually looks like.  So providing some “real world” examples of what goes on and what an average day looks like would help lift that veil.


I am fortunate that when I was at college and looking at what I wanted to do at University, I had the opportunity to spend a week at Bristol University undertaking sample lectures and visiting various companies to see what the different types of engineering entailed.  This helped me see what engineering was about and what areas interested me. 


So, I think it is important that companies take the time to provide prospective engineers the opportunity to see real engineering – it can be an awkward balance I appreciate with the demands of work but without this we run the real risk of not getting the quality engineers through that the industry so desperately needs.


There are some really good initiatives promoting where women are in engineering across all levels and this definitely needs to continue.  It provides a view to show the potential avenues that can be pursued and make it all more tangible.


I think a lot of this all stems from bringing things back down to earth and presenting the industry in a way that is easy to engage with and tangible.


Want to hear more from the Titans of Systems Engineering? Listen to our 'Masterclass' series on Youtube - Vicky's episode out in April, 2024!




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