23rd June 2021 is International Women in Engineering Day (#INWED), a day where we celebrate the amazing work that female engineers around the world are doing. The day launched in the UK in 2014 as a national campaign from the Women’s Engineering Society. Since then, INWED has grown enormously, receiving UNESCO patronage in 2016 and going truly global the following year.
To mark this important day, we interviewed Louise Evans, a Mechanical Design Manager at GSM Automotive Ltd, about her experiences as a female engineer.
What does your role involve at GSM Automotive Ltd?
My role as Mechanical Engineering Manager involves managing my team of engineers and ensuring the product is delivered on time and meets both GSM and customers’ requirements. No two days are the same in engineering. I’m still involved with the design aspect of our products even though my responsibilities have grown. Automotive engineering requires good attention to detail, customer interaction and the ability to design products to meet tough commercial targets.
Are there many females in your organisation – in similar roles?
GSM does have females in managerial positions in other departments. Within product engineering we have four female engineers including myself. When I started my career over 20 years ago, I was the only female engineer in an office with 30 plus male engineers so things are certainly changing within industry.
How long have you worked there and what were you doing before?
I’ve been with GSM for over 6 years (7 years in December). My career has been pretty varied but always design related. I started as a drawing office apprentice in a small engineering company manufacturing store fittings. I was given the opportunity to take a HNC course during my apprenticeship which I completed successfully. A year or so later I applied for a role in Borgwarner TTS as a design engineer which introduced me to the world of automotive. After 7 years in Borgwarner, I took a role as a Senior Mechanical Design Engineer in Linde HTD leading a team of engineers designing fork-lift trucks. From Linde I moved onto GSM as a Product Engineer. I was promoted to Senior Product Engineer then again to Mechanical Design Manager.
What made you decide to study mechanical design and engineering at Neath Port Talbot College and prior to that, Aberdare College?
I’ve always enjoyed taking things apart and finding out how they work so engineering was my natural vocation. I felt that a practical qualification more suited my learning style rather than going down the A level route. In Neath college there was only myself and one other female (who I still keep in contact with) and from my days in Aberdare there was only myself but that was some time ago. I’d like to think there are more females choosing engineering as their career now. When I was at secondary school, I don’t think the route into engineering was a real choice.
Have you found it challenging being female in your area of work?
I have found over the years that sometimes a female’s idea\voice\opinion isn’t as well listened to over that of a male colleague. Within the engineering department everyone is treated equally, and your design proposals are taken on merit.
Do you think female opportunities in STEM subjects has changed – are more females choosing them?
Yes, but very slowly, the UK lags behind American and European countries getting females into STEM subjects. Engineering needs to be introduced into schools so this can encourage children to explore the many different types of engineering careers available. Engineering is still perceived by the majority of the population as a role fixing white goods. This is completely different to European countries where engineering is on a par with being a doctor.
What is your home/work balance? Do you think females face more challenges than males?
For me it’s ok as I don’t have any children but I can imagine if I did, then it would be more difficult. GSM has supported one of my female colleagues by allowing her to work a shorter working week so she can share childcare with her partner.
What would you like to see happen in your industry to make it more inclusive for females?
I’d like to see more good female engineers coming through and being promoted on merit.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to carry on growing and developing as an engineer and manager. I would love to have full authority over an engineering department in the future.
What are your hobbies/passions outside of work?
I like to keep fit by playing squash, tennis and badminton. I also like to cycle and walk when the weather permits. I’m a passionate Welsh rugby fan (I think that goes for 99.9% of the Welsh population) much to the annoyance of my English partner! I also like to travel and experience other cultures.
MADE Cymru at University of Wales Trinity Saint David strives to celebrate equality in engineering and manufacturing (50% of the MADE Cymru team are female!). We want women to achieve their potential as engineers by ensuring all our online courses are online, flexible and can be studied around other commitments. We work with other organisations such as Chwarae Teg to promote gender diversity and equality in the workplace.
MADE Cymru is funded by the European Social Fund/European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and delivered by University of Wales Trinity Saint David. They have a suite of online and flexible courses in Innovation Management and Upskilling for Industry 4.0. They also offer collaborative R&D opportunities. All designed to support manufacturers in Wales.
For information, call 01792 481199, email [email protected] or visit www.madecymru.co.uk