Why we lack women in engineering – Interview with a female aerospace engineer
Reasons why the number of women in engineering is so low
"Most girls who like science at school are pushed into medicine" says Nathalie Zajaczkowski of Airbus talking to 3Plus about being why there are so few women in engineering.
Women made up only 11% of the engineering workforce in 2017. This means that engineering continues to be a sphere with some of the lowest numbers of females. The UK in particular has the lowest percentage in Europe at only 10%. Once again we are left asking - why is it so difficult to engage women in engineering? To get a first hand insight we reached out to women working in this sector.
At only 24, as a Fuel Systems Engineer, with a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering (1st Class) and avid footballer, Nathalie has never let herself be defined by gender expectations. She works for the Bristol based company Airbus. It is an international aerospace company that works on the design and manufacture of aerospace products. In our interview, Nathalie discusses her own journey within STEM, following her passions, and the importance of a support network. She highlights how a lack of awareness in schools about engineering and the reasons why women don't choose STEM subjects has caused this shortfall. We also get a snapshot into various sectors of the fascinating world of aerospace engineering, which as Nathalie rightly states, is not covered in school career advice meetings.
It can be difficult to know how to move away from our current career sector. But if you do want to move, look at 3Plus' Returner Roll-Up Session to help you Learn How to Identify your Transferable Skills.
Hi Nathalie, can you explain a little bit about what you do?
I am currently on an engineering graduate scheme within the fuel systems department at Airbus. I spend 3 months in different departments around the company before picking a final role after 2 years. So far I’ve done work on continued product development, worked on new helicopter systems in the modelling department and spent 3 months at the Airbus site in Toulouse. This was a much more hands on role involving troubleshooting procedures in the cockpit and looking into the fuel tanks, etc.
I’ve also been testing new software before it is implemented on production aircraft and the reactive support team dealing with daily airline queries. I even have the opportunity to go abroad to an airline for 3 months to see how the customer operates/maintains our products.
What made you want to follow a career path in the sciences?
I have always enjoyed making things and taking them apart (mainly breaking things). I particularly enjoyed maths and science at school. Plus I had the opportunity to fly planes and gliders at the Air Training Corps which made me want to get involved in designing aircraft.
Have you noticed a lack of females working or studying in sciences?
It depends what area of science as some disciplines have quite an even spread. On my aerospace engineering degree course, at the beginning of the degree, there were about 120 guys and only 11 girls. I am often the only woman in meetings at work, so I guess we are lacking women in engineering.
How do you think we could encourage more girls into the sphere?
Most girls who like science at school are pushed into medicine, so maybe creating more of an awareness of what engineering actually is. However this has improved a lot since I was at school.
As a young, female engineering graduate, is anyone ever surprised by your field of work?
Gender or age can affect the way people are perceived in the workplace or during interviews but people are surprised but never negatively. I think being one of only a few women in engineering actually helps in interviews and the workplace!
Were you aware that you have had to defy gender expectations to follow your passions?
It was a natural process. I've always followed my passions. As well as choosing to study engineering at University, I've also played for the women’s football team so I’ve never had any issues; I have really supportive parents and all the guys I’ve worked with have always been really encouraging as well.
What would you advise any women looking to pursue a career in STEM?
Go for it!
To find out about other women working in STEM, read our series HERE.
An important step in women advancing is learning from other, more experienced women. Contact 3Plus NOW to find out more about our Mentoring Programme.
Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
Dates for the Diary
June 28th Coaching and Discussion - Share the load with Dorothy Dalton and Ian Dinwiddy
Download and listen free podcasts
How to Create an Effective USP What is a USP? Our Unique Selling Point or UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is our key core message about where...read more
How to Rethink the Modern Workplace for Gender Equality New research shows that diversity and inclusion is a top priority for leaders. So why...read more
Menopause in the workplace In this podcast with Nicki Williams award winning author, keynote speaker and Founder of Happy Hormones for Life,...read more
How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace Nancy Milton, international business communications expert, keynote speaker and author, share some vital...read more
Taking Care of your COW Tanvi Guatam, international Personal Branding expert says there is a misconception out there that a personal brand is...read more
The importance of Hard Talk Dawn Metcalfe, author of Managing the Matrix and Hard Talk, shares with us tips to achieve the lasting communication...read more
When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage There’s a lot of stuff written on social media about female rivalry and competition between women. Some...read more
Goal setting tips to boost your career The happiest people are those that really love their jobs. Those that don’t, dread Sunday nights and...read more
Sexism: How to stage a Bystander Intervention in the Workplace In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions...read more
How to Get Noticed by Head Hunters & Recruiters In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions asked multiple...read more
Daily gratitude is an important booster. Read why we all need to show more of it.read more
Are you suffering from COVID19 boreout due to mental under-load? The symptoms of boreout are very similar to burnout so it can be difficult to tell them apartread more
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez shows women how to handle sexist abuse by excoriating the perpetrator in a systematic and dignified manner to the House floor.read more