Don’t scare girls away from ‘male dominated’ industries!

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Says Niri Arambepola- Structural Engineer at WSP, who was one of the 100 Inspiring Women at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School for our ‘Women Who Make the City’ event.

In some ways it is unfortunate that your teenage years are both when you are making important career decisions, and when you are often least confident and most aware of gender differences. For these reasons it would not be surprising to find that girls are nervous of taking a career path which would see them going into male dominated industries.
I work as an engineer, a profession in which 92% of the workforce is male. However, my experience, both in my current job at WSP (a large company with a mix of men and women) and in my internships at small companies where I was the only woman, is that my gender makes no difference. I am well aware that being female does not affect how well I do my job, and I am surrounded (in the office and on site) by professionals who feel the same.
Whilst it is important to highlight the lack of women in the industry, we shouldn’t do so to the detriment of girls’ career choices. It is important that girls do not feel scared to go into engineering for fear of sexism (which thankfully is not prevalent). We need to push girls to make their career choices based on what they are good at and what they enjoy.
This is where things like careers fairs, career talks and work experience can make a big difference. WSP had a stall at an Inspiring Women careers fair and I saw first-hand how this provides girls with much needed information about what jobs are out there and what they are really like. Many of the girls we spoke to had never heard of engineering before, but now I hope they will know enough to consider it as an option for further education.
Being informed gives young women confidence in their choices. And if they are confident, they are less likely to be put off by external factors, be it the male: female ratio or the length of a degree course. An informed young woman will be aware of the options available to her and can make decisions about her future based on what is right for her rather than on stereotypes.
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