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A Female Scientist at NPL

Category: testimonial, women in stem, Gender Focus, STEM, blog, Science, Girls In Science, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, stem career, STEM Careers, STEM for women, National Physical Laboratory, NPL

Gender Focus

This blog contains some of my ideas relevant to women in engineering based on my experience and observations. As it covers general issues it is probably applicable to other disciplines and may strike a chord with the experience of some men too.

I believe girls and boys are born with equal aptitude for engineering skills; good progress has been made towards equal opportunities in education and the case for female engineers is well-established. Engineering is an interesting subject with the potential to be very rewarding because engineers design and build products that can really improve quality of life.

All this is propitious for attracting women into employment in engineering. Nevertheless, if fewer women than men embark on engineering careers, and a higher proportion of women leave the discipline sooner, then what is going on? What happens as the years go by? Is the attrition a result of work place behaviours, a consequence of external societal factors or, as I suspect, a combination of the two?

Firstly, I think it needs to be openly admitted that whilst there are career-focused women and men in any organisation, sooner or later lots of employees find their work and career is not everything, or even the main thing, in life. This is not a problem! On the contrary, employees who do other activities besides their paid work bring knowledge of life and transferable skills to a business. Such staff are still intelligent, capable and conscientious.

Lots of women become mothers, like me. As such, we have responsibilities outside work, decisions to think about and make, duties and daily deadlines to meet. For various reasons, even in two-parent families, the bulk of the time-consuming, unpaid, child-caring work tends to fall to women, leaving us with less time and opportunity to do paid work and develop our careers.

NPL helps enable parents to work by having a nursery on site, allowing flexible and part-time working and having understanding line-management.

Secondly, I think it should also be acknowledged that there are different motivations for working. Of course, many of us need to be paid sufficiently to afford a reasonable standard of living, and some people are ambitious for power and wealth, but beyond financial considerations there is job satisfaction: doing a worthwhile job, well.

At NPL, we do work that underpins the UK’s prosperity and quality of life – this is special. For myself in engineering the design and development of useful products is very satisfying. Attractive career paths should include job satisfaction at every step. Furthermore, NPL also does well to offer permanent posts which are particularly important for employees with a dependent family, and NPL benefits by retaining experienced staff.

I hope my blog will raise awareness and promote discussion around retaining female employees in engineering long term.

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National Physical Laboratory

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