Q&A with Elizabeth Donnelly, CEO of The Women’s Engineering Society: 100 years of WES, INWED 2019 and the Top 50 Women in Engineering 2019

A summary of a Q&A with Elizabeth Donnelley in celebration of the centenary of WES and in the run up to the Women in STEM Conference 2019.

WES is celebrating its centenary this year, how are you celebrating and what are your plans for the rest of the year?

The celebrations started in January with our Change Makers event, bringing many of the Past Presidents of WES together, along with our younger Members who represent our future.

Remembering the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Transforming the Future. It was great to see all the previous inspirational women who were Presidents of WES come together.

We have three conferences planned for 2019, the first WES Centenary Conference took place in March at the RAF Museum in London and hosted Mandy Hickson an Ex-fighter pilot from the RAF and Emma Howard-Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency. There are two more conferences planned for this year, one in Cardiff, Wales, on May 15th and one in Edinburgh, Scotland, in collaboration with INWES in October.

Further celebrations include the WES Centenary Fundraising Dinner on 21st June, WES Centenary Members’ Lunch on 23rd June and International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) on 23rd June. WES has also launched its interactive online heritage trail, thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, exploring WES through its 100 year history. This is linked with ongoing wikithons across the country, aiming to add more women, especially women in engineering, to Wikipedia.

What are the major challenges facing Women In STEM currently?

The challenges faced by women in STEM are systemic. In order to encourage more STEM engagement among women we need to address the way the problem is being framed. Women are not the problem and men should be trying to work out how to support this change in perception. We do have to applaud companies that are already supporting the recruitment of women, but only 12% of engineers in the UK are women. The government is doing two things which should help change the system. Firstly, the government has urged FTSE 350 companies to have 33% of board positions filled by women by 2020. Secondly, the government is working towards narrowing the gender pay gap.

What tips do you have for girls and women that want to pursue a career in STEM?

Do it and don’t take no for an answer. If you enjoy maths and physics then take them for A level, you don’t have to have A grades to study engineering or pursue an engineering career. Find the sweet spot between what you find easy and what you enjoy and don’t let anybody hold you back. You can also find a mentor to advise you through your studies and your career. WES have a MentorSET programme through which you can find mentors who can provide support and advice. WES are hoping to fundraise and provide discounted rates for this for their members.

For International Women in Engineering Day 2019 the slogan is ‘Transforming the Future’, what do you think the future holds for women in engineering and how will WES be celebrating the day?

The future of engineering will focus on merging. It will see the merger of different types of engineering such as: mechanical engineering and electronical engineering into mechatronics. This will happen across all engineering streams. We are heading towards a future centred on driverless cars and renewables so it’s important that women are at the centre of these designs.

WES has a resource pack available on their website for INWED 2019 for everyone worldwide. WES have also launched their Top 50 Women in Engineering Awards: Current and Former Apprentices  – nominations are open now and the deadline has been extended until 23 April – you can nominate other inspirational women but women are also welcome to nominate themselves.  All women should be shouting out about themselves and their contribution to engineering.

What tips do you have for employers that want to attract more women to STEM positions?

Make women more visible in your recruitment campaigns and marketing material. This will attract more women to apply for positions. Employers should also gender decode their job descriptions, WES have a gender decoder on their website which you can use to prevent masculine-coded language and encourage more female applicants.

Employers should also stop using words such as ‘essential criteria’, women are less likely to apply than men if they think they don’t meet the essential criteria. Applications that use language such as ‘meeting more than 3 of the criteria’ are seen as more welcoming applications by women. Shortlists of applicants should always include women. It is also important for employers to make the workplace more flexible so women can return to the work place. Especially for those that have long career breaks, providing ‘returnships’ can help women get back to speed and support their return to work. Ultimately women should go for it!

Elizabeth Donnelly will be speaking at the Women in STEM Conference 2019, to find out more and book on check out the website here: https://stemwomenconference.co.uk/

This Q&A and summary was conducted and written by Tatiana de Berg

What to Expect from The Women in STEM Conference 2019

On May 22nd we see the return of the Women in STEM Conference in Central London at the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel. With even more speakers and delegates than last year.

New Bespoke Breakout Streams

For the first time, this year, the conference will be hosting dedicated breakout streams for the ‘Education Sector’ and for ‘Employers’. The afternoon sessions will provide delegates with the opportunity to gain specific insights into key issues and topics for women in STEM in each sector. Speakers will be presenting case studies of best practice demonstrating successful examples of promoting the progression of girls and women in STEM and how delegates could use these examples to implement similar strategies in their own organisations.

21 Speakers!

This year we will be hosting 21 speakers, all leading experts from the STEM sector. Keynote Speakers from STEM Learning, WISE, WES and The Royal Society will be sharing the latest policy updates. Case studies, workshops and panel discussions will provide examples of best practice, covering key topics such as: enhancing diversity, supporting pipeline progression and ensuring the improved uptake of girls and women entering STEM education and careers.

Focusing on Solutions not Problems

The aim of the conference this year is to focus on the positive change that is happening for Women in STEM and how it is coming about, rather than dwelling on the problems. In order to tackle key issues facing women in STEM, ideas and solutions need to be shared. The conference will offer the opportunity to network and share ideas with others in the sector, to ensure the long-term participation, recruitment and advancement of Women in STEM.

Join the Discussion Now!

If you don’t follow us already check out our Twitter page @WomenInSTEM19 where we share and discuss key topics on women in STEM. We use this platform not only on the day of the Conference but all year round to keep you up to date on the latest news, policy and ideas in the Women in STEM sector. For this year’s conference we have a dedicated hashtag: #WomenInSTEM19

Digital Resources

Enjoy watching and listening to speakers on the day without worrying about taking notes! All the resources on the day will be available on our digital resource bank, allowing you to download and access all the Conference presentations and resources throughout the day.

What Next?

If you are already signed up, you will receive specific joining information 2 weeks before the Conference. We can’t wait to welcome you from 8.45 at the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel on 22nd May

If you’re not booked on yet and are looking to register, final places can be secured via our registration page here: https://stemwomenconference.co.uk/booking-info/