International Women’s Day 2019 – A Q&A with Sue Eversley and Ellie Hall
We know that there is still a long way to go when it comes to the underrepresentation of women in our industry, so for IWD we spoke to two of our female Engineers to discuss their experiences, and get their perspectives on what can be done to improve the situation.
Sue Eversley, Application Engineering Team Leader, and Ellie Hall, Controls Engineer and Software Developer (both from very different areas of Engineering), shared their valuable insights:
Could you tell us a little about your current role at Airedale?
Sue: I’m the Application Engineering Team Leader, leading a team of engineers who are in Leeds and the London Office.
Our function is to assist the sales engineers and our customers with enquiries and technical issues for projects which are pre-order. We select our units and discuss the special adaptations which may be required to meet the client’s / site’s specifications. We create a proposal / price and forward these to the client for the sales engineers to follow up.
We also are the start of the order processing chain, as we check the orders against the quotations and technical details before they are passed to SOP.
Ellie: I work in the Controls team creating Building Management Systems, predominantly for data centres. We create a simple graphical interface that customers can use to see a real time picture of what is happening within their facility. We also manage the logic behind the graphics to enable optimal cooling for the building, and to configure relevant alerts to the customer when needed.
It’s the best of both worlds for me as I am involved in the engineering/technical side of the systems control, but also have a slightly more creative/developer role with the graphical user interface.
When did you realise that you wanted to be an Engineer?
Sue: I was always interested in the work my father did from being a teenager, so when the opportunity to be the “first “ girl in the school to take Technical Drawing as an “O” Level came along, I took it.
Ellie: I was at university studying Mathematics and found myself greatly leaning towards the mechanical topics in my course, as opposed to the statistical or pure mathematics modules.
During the end of my second year and beginning of my final year I began to look into Masters courses I could do that would link me more towards engineering, and ended up doing a course in CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics). I really enjoyed the masters and I think that was when I decided I wanted to try and get a job in the engineering sector.
What steps did you take to get into Engineering?
Sue: There was no career advice at school for a girl who wanted to do engineering in my time, so my parents contacted the Institute of Refrigeration who advised me to visit Willesden College London.
The head of the department there, John Ellis, was very supportive but also realistic and told me my pass level would have to be a lot higher than the boys: I had to be one of the best, as I would be challenged.
I’ve been very lucky in my career, working for York International during my college years, then on to Carrier Distribution and TRANE – our major competitors. I then joined Airedale 23 years ago.
Ellie: I took a Masters course in CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) in order to get some sort of experience that was closer related to engineering.
Why do you think women are underrepresented in Engineering?
Sue: I think it’s been a mixture of a lack of opportunities, and the perception of the challenges which are faced.
Ellie: I think it can be very daunting for young women to actively express interest in a field that is quite heavily advertised as being predominantly male. It’s true that there are more men in this industry, but that shouldn’t be something that puts people off.
I was the only female on my Masters course and there were times when I questioned my abilities purely because of that fact, but I quickly realised that it had no meaning whatsoever, and I ended up graduating top of the class.
I think the stereotype of engineering being directed towards men is already changing, it may just need a bit more time before it really starts to show!
What do you think our industry could do to encourage more women to pursue careers in our sector?
Sue: The perception of the industry is that it is more on the ‘hands-on’ side, and not the design side which is where there are more opportunities with a wider range of required skills. Maybe more publicity for these areas would help.
Ellie: Last year Airedale held an afternoon/evening event where girls from local schools came and had a factory tour, and a few of the women here at Airedale spoke to them about our different roles and how we got into engineering. I thought this was such an amazing idea and really wished that I’d had the opportunity to speak to people in the industry when I was that age.
I think it’s very difficult for young girls to know and understand all the different areas within engineering that you can work in. Advertising the sheer diversity of roles would be a great first step.
What advice would you give to young women who are interested in STEM subjects at school?
Sue: My advice would be for them to follow that interest and know that whilst it may not be a “soft option” for a career, take it as a challenge and use it to drive you to be the best. You can make a difference to this world, and sometimes being a woman actually helps, so bloom just like any other flower!
Don’t feel you have to conform to any preconceived stereotype…You can be both a woman and an Engineer!
Ellie: I think if you are interested in STEM subjects, the best thing to do would be to try and speak to somebody currently working in an engineering role. Understanding what is actually out there in terms of jobs and different areas you can go into is the first hurdle – it can be quite overwhelming!
We are hoping to host future WISE and STEM events, so if you have a group that would be interested in attending, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the WISE campaign, head to: https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/