Recognising their ground-breaking work in engineering, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has presented its prestigious Young Woman Engineer of the Year awards to three brilliant young women. All will play an ambassadorial role for the engineering and technology professions in the forthcoming months, promoting engineering careers to girls and young people.
At a spectacular awards ceremony in central London, the IET announced the winners of its awards for inspiring female engineers. All three were recognised for engineering excellence, as well as their drive and personality to be ambassadors for the profession.
Orla Murphy, Audio Engineer at Jaguar Land Rover, won the IET Young Women Engineer of the Year 2015. As well as having a keen interest in science, maths and engineering from a young age, Orla has always had a passion for music.
Orla is particularly interested in the problem solving required to get the prototype cars and audio features to an acoustically releasable level and her role involves working closely with the manufacturing and quality team to ensure audio issues are resolved.
“I really don’t know how I got such a fun job – ultimately I listen to music in cars all day long,” she laughs. “For me this is a dream job where I get to combine my passions and do what I love everyday, but it is challenging as there’s lots of problems when you working on new systems as they’re becoming more complicated. We have to consider weight, and we’re also working on other features such as navigation and park aid, so this small, specialised team is getting more and more responsibility.”
Orla became keen to promote careers in industry, break down the stigma related to engineering and give school pupils a better understanding of what it really entails. A STEM ambassador and a member of STEMnet, she’s taken part in many career evenings and local talks as well liaising with local teachers to give students exposure to people working within STEM roles.
Emma Goulding won the IET Mary George Prize for Apprentices. She is due to complete her technical apprenticeship at Siemens Aeroderivative Gas Turbines (AGT) after spending three years rotating around the business gaining experience in everything from technical support and documentation through to equipment health monitoring and sales.
Having now assumed a full-time role within the controls department, her current focus is providing technical support to customers.
Emma enjoyed the technical challenge of the apprenticeship and being able to apply the knowledge she’s learned in a working environment. In her short time at the company she’s already had many great opportunities, but one of her biggest challenges to date has to be project managing an event in Africa.
“During my sales placement I was responsible for project managing a customer training event in Luanda, Angola,” she says. “This week long event involved both engineers and managers providing Siemens product training to 50 of our customers. Even though I work in engineering, project management is an important part of what we do. I knew I needed more experience in this environment and this was the perfect opportunity. It was a massive challenge, but so far I believe I’m the first and only apprentice to have had that opportunity, so I feel quite privileged,” she says.
Outside of engineering technical support, Emma is also an active volunteer, working as a STEM ambassador. Alongside visits to local schools and colleges she works closely with other female engineers at Siemens to promote women in engineering as she wants to encourage more girls to choose a similar pathway to her own.
“I think it’s disappointing that the amount of women in engineering is so low at the minute and that needs to change. I remember a lot of people frowning upon the idea that I was homeschooled and I think that’s how a lot of girls look upon engineering, asking why would you do that? “I started volunteering because I wanted to try to change girls perceptions on what engineering is as we’re missing a lot of great talent simply because girls think it is an industry just for men.
Helen Cavill, Process Improvement Manager at M&H Plastics, Women’s Engineering Society (WES) Prize. She is involved in both long-term improvement projects and troubleshooting in production as soon as issues arise.
After completing her A levels she undertook a Year In Industry student placement, which turned into a three year stint working in an iron foundry. After this educational hiatus Helen then returned to academia, studying engineering at Cambridge University. Over the four years Helen spent her summer placements working for Siemens and with all this workplace experience under her belt felt ready to dive straight into an established engineer’s role.
Through its ties with the university Helen heard about M&H Plastics, applied for a newly created role and has been with the company ever since.
In her career so far Helen has two main highlights: being the first person in her family to attend university, subsequently achieving a first class degree in manufacturing engineering, and later gaining Chartered Engineer (CEng) status.
“I’m particularly proud of becoming CEng, which I did last summer, because my company has no other chartered engineers or a professional development scheme, although they are very supportive of me in general,” she notes.
Helen first got involved with a professional institution when she was awarded a scholarship from the IMechE and since then she’s worked closely with the organisation as a volunteer. Currently she is on the education awards committee as well as being treasurer and secretary of her local branch.
Helen has also been a STEM ambassador for the last nine years, working in many schools in her local areas mentoring projects and speaking at career events.
“Two of many favourite regular activities are the Lowestoft Interschool Maths Challenge and the Saturday Science Masterclasses. I’ve been involved in the challenge since its inception four years ago and I’m responsible for the practical round and I always like to include an engineering slant. I co-organise the masterclasses, which are aimed at 9-10 year olds. Here I design activities to run, such as balloon powered cars and building bridges from paper tubes.”
The IET vision of ‘working to engineer a better world’ rings true to Helen and with her immense enthusiasm for engineering she feels she can help children to see how fun and challenging a career in engineering can be. She feels that one of the best ways to teach pupils about engineering is to get them taking part in practical activities.
In the coming months, we will see them promoting engineering as a career to girls and young people generally. This work is vital, particularly in the UK, as women represent just 6% of the engineering workforce.
The host for the ceremony was Sarah Cruddas, Space Journalist and Science Reporter. Sarah commented that in a society obsessed with celebrity, what a woman wears is talked about more than her mind, so it is great to see that hard-working, bright young women are getting the public recognition they deserve.
Nominations for the 2016 Young Women Engineer of the Year Awards open on 8 March 2016. If you have someone in mind, take a look at the entry criteria.