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- Good morning, good afternoon, good evening wherever you may be joining us from in the world. My name is Victoria Zuber, I'm a course advisor for the online master's degrees with the University of Hull. Thank you all for joining us today and we have the Celebrating Women in Engineering with Hull Online.
With me today, We have Dr. Angeliki-- our program director, we have Maria-- a current student studying the master in engineering management with us, and we have Jo-- also the current student studying with us in the engineering management program. Though I'd like to firstly give a nice warm welcome to Dr. Angeliki. Welcome.
ANGELIKI PAPASAVA: Thank you, Victoria. It's lovely to be here and I'm very excited talking about women in engineering and STEM today. A warm welcome to everyone.
VICTORIA ZUBER: Thank you, Dr. Angeliki. Maria, welcome. It's a pleasure to have you here with us today.
MARIA GILLIUM: Thank you very much. I'm looking forward to speaking to future students and answering any questions that they may have.
VICTORIA ZUBER: Thank you, Maria. And Jo, welcome. Thank you for joining us today.
JO COX: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here to talk about the course and women and engineering. Wonderful opportunity. Thank you. So actually, it wasn't on my agenda at all. I didn't realize what engineering was until I hit my mid-thirties. So I started off and I actually had my son very young at 17 just as I came out of college and I wasn't really offered the opportunity to be able to go off and study at that point.
And I'd just come out of college thinking I was going to be an air hostess or travel and tourism. So I didn't really know what engineering was at that point and it wasn't until I hit 27 and started my career that I realized that engineering is where I wanted to be and worked my way through different roles within engineering. Starting out in administration and then working my way through into quality engineering.
But yeah. I found that engineering was offered to boys very much more than it was offered to girls. I did, really, love playing with Lego and building and understanding how things worked but didn't really know that engineering was an opportunity. And that, I didn't necessarily need to be a mathematician to become an engineer. It helps to understand but it's very much pushed that you need a good science background or a good mathematics background and I wasn't excelling at those at that point in my life.
So yeah, I was a potential air hostess at one point but now a budding engineer.
VICTORIA ZUBER: Thank you for that, Jo. And Maria, the same question for you. What was your dreams and aspirations for when you grow up?
MARIA GILLIUM: So mine was very different to Jo's. I'm a child of the '80s and my dad's car used to break down a lot. But I used to spend my weekends with him fixing the car. I quite enjoyed that but I didn't like being cold. So I knew I wanted something where I fixed things, where I made a difference, but I didn't like the cold.
So I started looking at what I could do and I quite enjoyed. Sort of DT, the design technology side at school and seemed to do quite well in that and I enjoyed my art as well. And I was quite lucky that when it was coming to courses, I was given an opportunity to interview at my current place of work and ended up getting an apprenticeship. And that shaped where I ended up because it was an engineering apprenticeship.
VICTORIA ZUBER: Perfect. Thank you both for that. And Angeliki, did you always start out dreaming of becoming-- in the engineering field?
ANGELIKI PAPASAVA: I grew up in an engineering family. My father is a computer engineer-- one of the first ones, actually, in Greece back in the '70s. So I remember playing with-- instead of toys, trains and fixing-- helping my dad to fix computers. But I never dreamed of working in the engineering field. I wanted to become a teacher, an archaeologist, fashion interested me at some point. And I think that that's a key issue with the lack of women in engineering.
The fact that we grow up thinking that we can't do it. That there are different career opportunities for us. From a very young age, we are given, as women, dolls or cooking equipment. We learn how to paint our nails and do facials. We aren't given a set of screwdrivers, for example, as I remember my fellow boy students being given as a toy.
So yes, you grow up thinking that there are certain things that you can do and certain things that you cannot do. Now, if you come from an engineering environment, it's easier. But if you come from a different environment, you keep thinking that there are more appropriate jobs for women. And I think that's the key issue with engineering today. That's why we don't have as many women as we want. And the field is lacking this diversity and this great perspective that women can bring.
- I recently came back from Thailand having spent three years with Bombardier. And one of the key things to move to the next level of what I wanted to do was having a degree. And actually, I didn't have a degree and I felt a little bit of a shame that that's something that I haven't ever experienced.
And my life changed in October moving back and I managed to afford myself some time and some space to start the learning process. And I have a career path that I want to follow and I want to be in the senior leadership team. And at that point, there needs to be some form of degree.
I looked at the normal degree and really looked at it and thought, well, I've actually done most of that in my life already and didn't think that the masters would be an opportunity. But when I looked at it, it was very interesting, it was very relevant to the role that I was doing and the next step that I want to take. So I researched, I contacted Victoria, I made my personal statement, and I went for it.
Life is too short to keep thinking about what you can't do and apply yourself to what you can. And it was a very scary decision. I haven't ever written proper assignments with the exception of helping my sons for uni and studying is something completely new for me. So it's really exciting, but the drive for me is the next step on the career path is pushing forwards to see what I can achieve as an engineer and to put myself out there as a role model for other women coming up through the industry. That's really important for me.
VICTORIA ZUBER: Thank you, Jo. And I was-- yes, I was very lucky to lead you on those first steps to where you are now and I remember it well. Maria, and what was the motivation for you to study a master in engineering management?
MARIA GILLIUM: So again, I'm very different to Jo. I've always done part time-- the part time study started, obviously, with my apprenticeship with [INAUDIBLE]. So all of my qualifications have been achieved part time. So I had worked my way through [INAUDIBLE] engineering degree. I then was lucky enough to have a management degree as well. And I wanted to merge the two. And I had wanted to do that for quite some time. I'd been putting this off for 10 years.
It was during COVID. I'd run through my list of jobs. I was getting a little bit bored. So I did an online course just to show it one. And I think it reignited the spark that I wanted to be back in education. I enjoyed it. I wanted to put my practical knowledge, my daily work into some sort of qualification. And the engineering management degree offered by a Hull University just completely ticked all those boxes and it was a familiar place because my other degrees had also been with the university.
But quite-- but they'd always been in-person. And I think, as well, one of my initial apprehensions was the fact that it was online. Could I be disciplined enough? I'm not the most disciplined person. And I was quite apprehensive about that. But I've found it just fits into my lifestyle. It's a lot easier than having to travel and all the rest of it. It's certainly afforded me more time to put my best into it. And I feel that's been quite beneficial with it being online.
- When you think about an engineer, you think grubby, dirty, horrible environments, full of men that have opinions on women in the workplace. And actually, that couldn't be farther from the truth. I work in a very clean environment. In the factory, it can be quite grubby, but I have influence in the factory. I'm not there all the time, but I think all of the men that I meet are more encouraging about the fact that I'm entering the industry and want to support me through my journey.
And I don't think it's the grubby environment. There are engineering roles where it can be quite dirty or that you're working with tools and equipment. But there's also the engineering elements such as design engineering that are really important. We can't build things without design and we need those people to come through into the system and help to build the future.
Technology is pushing forward faster than ever. And women should be supporting that in their roles and their opinions should be heard. So I think that there aren't enough women in the industry. We see that across the board. I see that within my own industry. But there are more women coming through and there are more men supporting that.
And for me, it's about having those male role models to help support you through the industry and say, actually, we welcome you here, we want you here, and we want you to be a part of this and help us move forward because a lot of them are open to opinions as well as everybody else.
So I think that's the misconception for me. It's not necessarily a grubby, dirty environment. It can be open for women to enter that environment as well. And some women like that environment. I don't mind getting my hands dirty, and I've spent many a night out on a track for a 12-hour possession looking at signaling systems. It's exciting if we are able to get out in that environment and we should.
VICTORIA ZUBER: Thank you for that, Jo. And Maria, do you have any comments on the split between male and female engineers that you'd like to talk about with us?
MARIA GILLIUM: I think when I entered engineer in 22 years ago, it was very different. I think there was a lot less women in the industry. I'm happy to say that that's changed a lot. Our company, we have several female apprentices. We also have several women in high engineering roles such as innovation manager and industrial engineering manager.
And I think it shouldn't really be down to men and women. It's what somebody, an individual brings with them. And I'm very much a cheerleader for that. We all bring different skill sets and it shouldn't matter whether you're male or female. The fact that you've got that good mix of opinions and ideas and thoughtfulness and challenging each other, and that's what helps you to become a better engineer at the end of the day.
- A lot of us go through being mothers and housewives and have a lot of skills that we can bring of organization and putting things together very quickly. I think we have a lot of skill. I think we see the world differently. Sometimes, we have a fresh pair of eyes and a different opinion on things.
And I think those opinions should be discussed and they should be out there in a forum with a mix of males and females. And I think there are plenty of women out there with a good opinion and able to voice those opinions in the right environment. So I think women have an energy that they bring and that energy is a positive force sometimes. And we can drive things very, very well.
We have the ability to drive into right situation. So I'm an advocate for bringing more female engineers into the industry because they have such worldly experience. If you just step out there, put yourself forward, speak to people in engineering, speak to the tutors on this course, speak to some of the students that have done this previously, I think understanding exactly what engineering is and doing a lot of research, there's so much out there on women in engineering or just in engineering in general and the different career options that are available to you.
You don't necessarily have to come in as a full blown engineer. You can start on an apprenticeship just like Maria did. It goes all the way through different levels of the career, different paths. And I think, speaking to people, finding an advocate-- somebody in engineering already and just talking to them about what they do. And that will help. But yeah. Be brave. Make the jump. You'll never regret it.
- We thought ourselves a lot. I think, there's a lot of questions, sometimes, about can we achieve this? Is it going to be difficult? Is it going to be, are the women on the course? And I think the support that you get, not just from the women on the course, but for any of the other students, has just been very positive and it, actually, makes it pleasurable to go to the classes because you're going to see those people every week and online.
And it just-- I think people doubt too much. And I think well, yes, then, I mean, you need to stop worrying what other people think. This is for you, this is for your family, this is about your career and, ultimately, that's in your control, so take control.
- So we don't need to prove anything to anyone. We're doing it for ourselves. The only one we have to please at the end of the day, it's ourselves. So whatever we decide to do in life, we should do it, as Maria said, with our best ability. Give it 120%. Do it with love and do it with passion.
Like me, I like to use myself as an example. Do what you love and you never have to work a day in your life. That's not me saying this, it's Confucius. But at the end of the day, I can see this. I worked hard, I worked a lot, but I end my day with a big smile because I love what I'm doing.
And as Jo said, engineering has so many different disciplines. We have students from pharma-- pharmaceuticals, we have students from construction, architects. We have students from pure engineering-- oil and gas. So there are so many different disciplines, so many different industries that an engineer can work at.
My industry, IT, computer engineering. So it's a very, very large world out there. Large place out there. There is a lot of demand for engineers at the moment. That's what I see. By talking to companies, looking at what's happening in the industry, there is huge demand for engineers.
So it's also pretty much a set career once you decide to go into this. And we have a lot to bring. So start with an apprenticeship, go for a degree, do something else first. And then after 10, 20 years of experience, as many of our students, decide to go straight into an MAC. It's up to us. Whatever we like and whatever we want.
JO COX: So I'm part of Women in Rail. So I work in the rail industry and have worked in the rail industry for the last, I think, 17 years. A long time working within rail. And rail is a very male dominated environment. And there's a lot of effort now to really push engineering with women involved.
So Siemens, they have a women's group internally that we discuss how we can encourage more women engineers and technical qualifications through the industry and mentor them, coach them through the industry. But there is a specific group called Women in Rail. But I also work as a STEM ambassador-- science, technology, engineering, and math.
So I'm working alongside a company with Siemens called Primary Engineer and this is working with primary school children to encourage them into engineering fields and really trying to engage young girls of the age of 8, 9, or 10 and explain to them, this is engineering. And this is what you can do.
And you don't have to follow the norms for what a girl can do. You can be whatever you want to be, but having that opportunity to show those girls-- 8, 9, or 10 that you can build a train. If you want to, that's where you be. You can build a house, you can dig for oil.
All of these things are opportunities that are available for you. And I love working with the kids. They have such brilliant ideas. I judged an event yesterday where one of the girls had created this amazing train and another one of the lads that was on there, he'd created a train that looked like a stingray.
And he was talking about, well, how did the wings-- he had wings on his train and he was talking about how these wings would have to fold up so that he could get the aerodynamics to work properly. He was 9 and talking about aerodynamics. It was brilliant. You know, and the girls were really engaged.
So STEM ambassador is an amazing opportunity to get out there and outreach to the kids, and then looking for the women's groups that are available to support you and I really do lean on the Women in Rail to get extra motivation to encourage.
VICTORIA ZUBER: Thank you for that, Jo. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. And Maria, are you part of any groups, organizations, societies that you can share with us?
MARIA GILLIUM: So I'm a big supporter of the WiME which is the Women into Manufacturing and Engineering who have an event planned in Hull in early July. And this is about encouraging women of all ages-- from school age upwards to look at manufacturing and engineering.
And I think Jo said something very interesting yesterday when we were talking about how, sometimes, people can be working in engineering but in non-engineering roles and then become interested in it. And I think that's a good place for people to start looking at how to get into engineering and, quite often, the springboard into it.
And, obviously, the Women into Manufacturing and Engineering can help with that. There's a lot of local businesses that attend and discuss opportunities. And it's a good place to see what roles are out there. In addition to that, I'm also a STEM ambassador. I go into some of the local colleges and speak to the students about the different jobs and a different roles that are offered by local companies.
I think quite often, people just see engineering as this all encompassing one title. But there's so many unique roles out there. There's a lot of new changes. You know, how you have [INAUDIBLE] engineers, there is industrial engineers, there is design engineers, development engineers. There's lots and lots of different titles and different tangents to engineering that people don't necessarily consider until they can see them and I'm a big sort of cheerleader, again, for getting those visuals into people's heads to help them to determine what type of engineering they want to go into.
And there's also Girls into Engineering which, again, is-- I think, it's a Wilberforce College initiative where they bring in all the local school children and all the girls and we do sort of speed interviews and let them know what engineering is, actually, about.
- I think that STEM is a great place to start from a very young age. I also-- as a mother of young children, both my children are attending STEM and are very much into robotics. So it's great, especially for my young girl, to learn how to build. But also, there are so many different societies in the UK and around the world.
So I would say that even a simple Google search about women engineering societies in our area can bring us much closer to many different engineering societies. There are so many women who can become an inspiration. So many names in engineering around the world. I was just thinking, as Jo was speaking, that the head, for example, of engineering of MIT is a lady with a lot to offer to the sector and to young engineers-- male and female.
But yes, just a simple Google search, there are so many organizations that we can find and the one that fits us in terms of perspectives, in terms of vision, in terms of mission is the one that we should join.
- Hydrogen trains. We've rolled out the first hydrogen train in Europe this year. So that was a huge achievement, and that's out on the railway. And we have these huge environmental targets to hit and we have to manage the way that we do that. But for me, digitalization is huge. It really is the talk of the industry at the moment and finding engineers that can perform this digitalization transformation is going to be really hard in the future.
A lot of the current engineering community are at the top end of their retirement age and we really need to be bringing those newer engineers up and up to speed as quickly as possible. We need to be moving people quicker, faster in better more environmentally friendly ways. And it's going to take some great minds to do that.
- We like talking about this VUCA world that we live in. It's a volatile, uncertain, complex world that we live in with too many changes that take place very quickly. And engineers were always builders. Supporting the system, being part of the change. So are we talking sustainability? Engineers are there. Are we talking about sustainability in terms of environment but also in terms of viability of the world?
Are we talking about technology? Of course, engineers are in the center of everything. Are we talking about artificial intelligence? Digitalization which is, of course, a big trend, especially, after the pandemic? Engineers are there. So all these different fields of engineering, they come together in order to make the world a bit better.
And yes, by teaching and talking about strategy to many top-level executives. And as our ladies were talking, two ladies that are also coaching came into mind. The one is a managing director of a very large oil and gas company, energy consumption and she's trying to change the business model from the traditional fuel into hydrogen and thinking about how to bring this to the world using their existing facilities.
And the other lady, she's the head of engineering in one of the largest steel producers in the world. And they came up with this great idea of green steel. Environmentally friendly. Making-- revolutionizing not only the train industry, the automotive industry, but other industries as well. There is so much to be done. It's a very exciting period.
On the one hand, we have this VUCA world, but on the other hand, we have all this R&D. New ideas coming into place. Understanding how important it is to respect our Earth. So a lot is going on. Yes, a lot-- many exciting things. I'm getting super excited just talking about them.
VICTORIA ZUBER: I can hear it in your voice. And do you know what the future brings? We don't know what's coming, what's going to happen. Such exciting times for you and for our students and for women in engineering.