Springboard recently attended this year’s annual WES conference, ‘Get connected: Empowering women and enriching careers’, held at University College London (UCL). The event brought together Engineers from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, offering networking opportunities as well as a programme of talks packed with information, advice and coaching.
Professor Nigel Titchner-Hooker, UCL Dean of Engineering, opened the conference with his insight into the necessity of diversity within Engineering. Further speakers followed including Dr Andrew Tyler CBE who gave a perceptive keynote on ‘Men as Allies’ which addressed the topic of shifting the way gender equality is viewed by men from ‘apathetic’ to ‘positive’. When discussing why we need more women in Engineering, Tyler reasoned ‘we’re missing out on half of the brain power and talent of the population – and why would we want to do anything like that?’
The morning plenary, ran by Madeleine Morgan, focused on confidence and communication in career decision-making and revolved around the pyramid of career success. This emphasised the importance of the different aspects of career progression – from setting ambitious goals to having the resourcing around you to succeed.
Perhaps one of the most insightful parts of the day was a panel of representatives from three women’s networking groups discussing the value and role of such groups. Camilla Ween, WTS London, Maxine Symington, WiN UK, and Liz Bacon, STELLAR debated questions from the audience which ranged from the difficulty in naming a group – do you have ‘woman’ in the title? – to what are the key objectives a group should have. This was challenged and complimented by audience contributions of their first-hand experiences of women’s networking groups.
Further talks informed attendees on a range of topics from registration and chartership, to flexible working and how to get your employer on-board. Jacqui Hogan from MentorSET spoke about the many benefits for mentors and mentees, as well as how the MentorSET scheme is playing a crucial role in encouraging girls and women to pursue a career in STEM.
Overall, the day gave Engineers the opportunity to come together to focus on the issues women face in STEM, learn about techniques for overcoming adversity, and ultimately be more successful Engineers. The conference proved invaluable in linking up female Engineers in an industry that is particularly sparse of women.
Lucy Bennett, Springboard’s Year in Industry Student and delegate at the conference, has since drawn up an action list of events, ideas and discussions with the aim of increasing female representation within Springboard and the Engineering industry.
- Women’s Engineering Society, WES, is a charity and professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists
- Madeleine Morgan is based in Cambridge and offers various types of coaching from early career to personal development
- WTS London networking group focuses on advancing women in transport
- Women in Nuclear, WiN UK, looks to address the industry’s gender balance, improve the representation of women in leadership and to engage with the public on nuclear issues
- STELLAR women’s network aims to inspire, promote, support and collaborate to address the lack of women in IT, Engineering, Mathematics and Science professions
- MentorSET is a successful mentoring scheme to help women working in STEM which has been running since 2002 and has created many hundreds of mentoring pairs across the UK