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More women are choosing careers in engineering

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Dr Bana Shriky, Post-doctoral Research Assistant in the Faculty of Engineering & Informatics at the University of Bradford

Time to remove barriers and dispel myths, say education chiefs

“Girls can be engineers, girls can be scientists, girls can be anything they like, so long as they study hard and have the interest for it.” That’s the view of Dr Bana Shriky, Post-doctoral Research Assistant in the Faculty of Engineering & Informatics at the University of Bradford.

And she should know. As a child, she was inquisitive, often wondering how things worked and at school, she had a talent for the sciences. After school, she gained a degree in pharmacy and then a Masters, followed by a PhD in engineering, before taking up her present position as a postdoctoral research scientist in engineering.

Speaking ahead of the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11, she said she wanted to banish stereotypes about women in science.

“It’s heartbreaking to think there are still some people who think women should do this job and men that job. My view is we wouldn't be where we are today without some of the scientific discoveries made by women, from Rosalind Franklin's work on the structure of DNA to helping put people on the Moon.

“I love science and I’d encourage any girl to consider it as a career. The skills you acquire as an engineer are also very transferable. For example, my PhD involved looking at hydrogel drug delivery systems but right now I’m working on a project to recycle rubber. As an engineer, you create and develop the equipment other scientists use to make their own discoveries.”

Changing perceptions

Elzarie Le Roux, 24, is a second year student in the Department of Biomedical and Electronics Engineering, studying Clinical Technology. She was urged to take up the course by her tutors after completing a previous degree in Human Movement Sciences.

“My mother is a civil engineer and my father an electrical engineer. However, making a career in engineering wasn’t something I initially considered - my tutors recommended me, based on my grades.

“I think there is still a sense that certain occupations and degrees are mainly for men but that is changing. I would encourage any woman to believe in themselves. The potential career opportunities are vast, with so many areas to gain employment and make a difference to society.”

More women in science

February 11 is the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science, with this year’s theme being women scientists at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19. The 6th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly will be held virtually at the United Nations Headquarters.

A Unesco Zoom Webinar will take place with speakers and a panel discussion. This will showcase some of the work led by women in the fight against Covid-19 and highlight the often negative impact of the virus on woman scientists, while contributing to a widening gender gap in science. 

Registration and programme details can be found here

Vital for future of humanity

Dr Elaine Brown is a Reader in Mechanical and Process Engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bradford.

She says: “Gender equality in science is important for the empowerment of women and also vital for humanity – we cannot achieve our potential if we allow barriers for half of the world’s population to be in place. 

“We need to utilise the skills, experience, and diverse input of all scientists if we are to benefit fully. More support is needed for women working in science, and more encouragement for girls to consider studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

“February 11 is a celebration and recognition of the contributions made by women and girls to advancing understanding in science and technology, with a particular theme this year women scientists at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19.

“The Faculty of Engineering and Informatics at the University of Bradford, in partnership with the University Gender Staff Forum and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team, is marking the day by highlighting the stories of some of our students and staff, asking them why they chose to pursue scientific study and what they hope for the future of women and girls in science.”

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