Posted 29 March 2019
“It may take a while to get events and trips up and running, but if to start with, we can make life just a little bit easier for one new woman joining this amazing profession, then this whole enterprise will have been worth it.”
A new group focused on women in engineering which aims to take a positive-only approach to increasing female representation in the industry has been set up at Harper Adams University.
Stellar Harper Engineers (SHE) is the brainchild of BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering student Anita Woolf, 20, who was inspired by her research into women in engineering after being awarded the Douglas Bomford Trust Scholarship in 2018.
“I had a very large shock when I came to Harper, having gone to an all-girls school and then arriving at the University to be one of two females in engineering in my year,” says Anita from Northamptonshire. “There was a lot to get used to, and if there had just been a group of people to say ‘hello, there are other girls in engineering’; that would have made it a lot easier.
“My research into females in engineering opened many possibilities for me, and on one of these occasions I found myself at a networking event. It was a phenomenal experience, except a re-occurring theme kept coming back up: when I was talking to my peers, they would end up mentioning their university groups - which got me thinking about the fact there wasn’t anything comparable at Harper.
“I mentioned this to one of my lecturers, who then highly encouraged me to see whether it would be possible to set something up; this is how the group started.”
SHE has three main aims: to be a positive-only area focused around women in engineering; a platform to encourage and share student success stories; and a place to learn about other inspirational women and engineering events focused around women. It will also be looking at organising industry trips and working with the local community.
The group enjoyed a successful lunchtime launch, where the views of peers at the University were shared, as well as discussions about what other students would want the focus to be. Industry trips proved a very popular suggestion. As well as this, a number of quotes were gathered from those in attendance, talking of pride in being woman engineers, encouraging and including all those who want to enter the profession, and the importance of talent from both sexes entering the industry to meet the demands of the future.
“It may take a while to get events and trips up and running, but if to start with, we can make life just a little bit easier for one new woman joining this amazing profession, then this whole enterprise will have been worth it”, adds Anita.
The group are also supporting the University's outreach activity. Outreach Manager Kimberly Chadwick said: "The Stellar Harper Engineers have been a fantastic addition to the breadth and depth of outreach provision we can provide around STEM, in particular focusing on raising the aspirations of girls to aspire to careers within engineering and STEM related subjects; right the way from Key stage 2 to Key stage 5.
"We are looking forward to having them involved in some of our biggest on-campus events like the Field to Fork Festival and raising aspirations among parents and the community too. It's a fantastic initiative and one we are very proud to work alongside in outreach.”