Encountering a woman in engineering in the 1980’s was a great rarity, and while the presence of women in engineering has increased it is by no means a well gender balanced industry. Our workforce at TecQuipment reflects what is an industry wide bias due to a shortage of female candidates in the market. This is beginning to change.
This summer, 16-year-old school student Molly Ferneyhough who aspires to be an engineer, will be spending four weeks working with the engineering team to gain experience.
16-year-old Molly challenges her peers with aspirations to be an engineer
Since primary school, Molly enjoyed maths and science, shunning topics like English for more practical subjects that delved into understanding how the world and things worked. When she was 12, Molly’s physics teacher pointed out that she would make an excellent engineer. At the time, Molly had little understanding on what an engineer did. After some research, and visits to places like the National Space Centre, her mind was made up – engineering it should be, particularly aerospace engineering. With her GCSEs now done, Molly plans to study Maths, Physics and Economics at A’Level. From then she hopes to do an apprenticeship and move into management in engineering.
“I love it, no one is going to stop me. Women can do whatever jobs men can do.”
This is what Molly tells her female peers when they ask why she wants to be an engineer.
Bridget’s career: an engineering journey
TecQuipment’s Technical Author Bridget Whitehouse has spent a career from the early 80s in engineering, but unlike Molly’s journey she only discovered her interest in technology and engineering when she was studying a degree in technical history. The interest captured her to such an extent that in her second year she switched to combine her degree with Computer Science.
After this she went on to be a Computer Programmer working on bespoke systems hosted on early PCs (dual floppies, no hard drive) and mini computers. From there Bridget moved onto being a Systems Analyst and then a Software Engineer working on instrumentation tracking in oil refineries. With the 1990s recession Bridget was made redundant so she went back to university to get a masters in Computer Science. When family responsibilities came along, Bridget chose to take a career break, during which she retrained as a Technical Author. Bridget’s new engineering career found her in a job working on trains that carried out non-destructive ultrasonic testing of rail track. Her days in the office were interspersed with days and sometimes nights on the trains learning about the equipment from development engineers so that she could create user manuals for technicians and maintenance engineers. This job took her to railway sidings in America, Spain, Germany and the UK.
Now Bridget writes TecQuipment’s datasheets and User Guides for all the varied products for training the next generation of engineers. She is not tied to the desk (her only personal requirement for her career from the outset), and on an almost daily basis she is in the factory learning about the equipment, what it does and how it works so that she can write up Student, Lecturer, Safety, User, Installation and other guides.
Bridget says of her career:
“I love it, no two days are the same, I am constantly learning. It is nice to be working with all the men but it would be nicer still if women in engineering were the norm rather than the exception.”