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Author: The Greenpower Team
International Women’s Day 2022: Kate Rodley
Although we have seen some progress over the past few years, there is still a gender imbalance within the engineering industry, and the changes needed to address this problem need to be made at the grassroots level. The 2020 Engineering UK report found that among primary school students, boys were four times more likely to want to become an engineer than girls. At the GCSE level, 89.6% of pupils that took a GCSE Engineering qualification in 2019 were male. Even at A-level, STEM subjects continue to lack female participants, with women making up only 23% of Physics students and 39% of Maths students.
There is no reason why engineering should be a male-dominated industry, and that is being proven by one of our ex-competitors Kate Rodley. After taking part in the Greenpower challenge while at Beverley High School – an all-girls school in Yorkshire – Kate is now thriving as an Advanced Apprentice for Siemens Mobility Limited.
For International Women’s Day, we sat down with Kate to talk about her Greenpower experience, as well as what it is like to be a woman in engineering in 2022.
How did you get involved in Greenpower?
In 2016, I was in Year Ten at Beverley High School, which is an all-girls school. The school advertised to all years that they would be participating in the KCOM Greenpower Car Project, and I really wanted to take part in anything to do with engineering. I put my name forward and attended every meeting leading up to the delivery of the Greenpower car kit.
Even before the car kit arrived, I thoroughly enjoy the project. We started to collate our ideas on how to make acceptable amendments to the performance of the car, whilst ensuring we would not break the guidelines. I could finally use my IT skills, Product Design background, and my artistic side to participate in the project. I was part of the design team, manufacturing team, and driving team because I proved that I was eager and more than capable to do all of the above. As fun as driving the car was, the project itself was the most satisfying and memorable. Working as a team to excel in the KCOM race brought us all together and made us all very proud to represent the high school and Siemens, who sponsored our car. This overwhelming feeling of achievement is why I further pursued my career in engineering.
What was your favourite part of Greenpower? And how did the project help you develop the skills required for a career in engineering?
The Greenpower project was my favourite experience during my time at school. It helped me to understand the importance of working as a team, how to efficiently use my own initiative, how speaking up and sharing my thoughts is beneficial and appreciated, and it was the start of my ambition to work towards a career with Siemens. The experience I have gained from Greenpower and the feedback I received from Vaughan Curnow has developed me as a young female engineer, and also shaped my CV into something Siemens Mobility were impressed by.
What were the next steps you took in your career path after Greenpower?
My Product Design teacher told me about a new engineering college opening up in Hull, Ron Dearing UTC, at the time I was searching into where I should study after high school. I applied for a Level Three Extended Cambridge Diploma in Engineering and was accepted to the college, thanks to the hard work I put into achieving my GCSE grades. Siemens Gamesa sponsors the college, so I had the privilege of attending an off-shore wind turbine convention. I walked around the convention after the presentation and asked many questions to further my understanding on the importance of sustainability. I also created a fully operating Computer Aided Design Siemens Gamesa Wind Turbine on Inventor Professional as part of my diploma. I researched into Siemens throughout my time at Ron Dearing UTC, because it became a goal to be able to work for the company.
What is it like being a woman in the engineering industry?
I do not see nor feel there is a difference in gender here in the engineering industry. I have always been appreciated and accepted. For now, there are more men than there is women, but even so there is no gender inequality to fear of. I have never been judged nor questioned why I am here, I have however been supported and praised for choosing this career path as it is not often one women chose. Being a woman in the engineering industry is something to be very proud of, and something you should consider if you are feel you are practical, enjoy problem solving, eager to learn on the job, and work successfully in a team as well as under your own initiative.
What do you think needs to be done to get more women into engineering careers?
When I was in high school, there was not an engineering subject. When choosing my GCSE subjects, I chose the subjects which seemed most relevant to engineering because there was not a subject specific to engineering, like there was at the all-boys school in my area. The only introduction to engineering by the school was The KCOM Greenpower Car Project. As a result, I believe it is very important for girls to be introduced engineering especially at a young age. Many young girls and boys are practical and obtain an interest in bringing their thoughts to life, yet do not know that engineering is a possible route to take because it is not introduced to them. Instead of engineering, there is textiles, drama, theatre, music, art. These subjects are practical, but a high level of developed interest in engineering from a young age will help someone excel in life.