Coventry University academic and qualified aerospace engineer Dr Tosha Nembhard says there needs to be more support to help women get into engineering.
Dr Nembhard left Mauritius to start her course at the university in 2002.
After graduating she rose through the ranks at Collins Aerospace before returning to Coventry University to teach and she believes the key to building on that progress lies in increased support in schools and colleges, in industry, and from the government.
She said: “Education is so important to drive change. I go into local schools as a STEM volunteer to talk about engineering careers, for the children to see my face, my colour, and my gender – visibility is important.
“We have managed to get girls interested in engineering but we need to work on keeping them in the industry. We need to improve the support structure.
“Support is important and that is why I mentor my students.
“I was the only woman on my course and in my engineering role and that is what I try to prepare my students for. It is hard, you might feel uncomfortable but so long as you have studied hard, learn from your experiences and are good at your job you will be successful.
“I am a member of Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter, and the Women in Engineering Society and they are great networks supporting and driving change.
“If we can develop more support from a directorial and management level in industry then I think we will start to see a big difference. If the government add diversity percentage targets I believe that will encourage employers to support the women in their industry.”
A June 2021 report by Engineering UK revealed that women make up 14.5% of all engineers – a 25.7% increase in five years.
Emma Vizzino completed her Mechanical Engineering degree in 2021, becoming a Mechanical Maintenance Engineer at the Prax Group. She says role models like Tosha are important to driving change.
She said: “Having the support network of the university’s Women in Engineering Society where you can share and discuss things with people in a similar position is important. My advice to any young woman considering a career in engineering, is not to listen to doubters, be yourself, follow your passion and find role models in everyday life and learn from them.
“I know how important it is for young women not just to see, but to meet and engage with other women in the industry, so that they know they can build a career. At Prax Lindsey Oil Refinery we are working with schools and colleges to attract and engage the next generation of female engineers to the industry.
“I nearly changed career just because of societal pressure, however, if I listened to those people, I would never have been happy. I am so glad that I pursued the career I wanted to do.”