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Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Fri, 11 February, 2022

Today, 11 February, is International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

2022 marks the seventh such day with an assembly taking place at the United Nations headquarters in New York on the theme of ‘Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us.’

This theme is to investigate how to meet rising demand for clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services while solving the challenges of water management and conservation in the light of climate change. You can find out more about this on the United Nations’ website.

As ever, the day is also about recognising the role of women and girls in science as both beneficiaries and as agents of change. We have been leading the way when it comes to inspiring women and girls in science, particularly through the work of the Tipper Group and our diversity and inclusion policies.

We took a moment to speak with some of our inspirational female employees to ask them what inspired them to pursue a career in science and engineering…

Programme Manager, Kamer Tuncbilek: “I loved studying science because I was curious and fascinated by the world we live in and science could provide me answers to understand it. As a child, I remember thinking how mathematics, biology, physics and chemistry could relate with what we do in our day-to-day life, which made the subjects far more interesting for me when I was young. Yes, it was perceived a bit nerdy by some others at times but, at the same time, it was very prestigious to study science and the jobs that it could offer. So, I worked hard to be eligible to study at a boarding science school that focused on teaching all science subjects in depth, which led me to become an engineer in the end.”

Senior Project Leader, Kate Franklin: “When I was young I was always fascinated by how things work, I had a brilliant illustrated book (‘The Way Things Work’ by David Macaulay), which was an encyclopaedia full of mammoths explaining the principles and mechanics within everyday machinery. At school, I was never good at English; I thrived at subjects where you were required to understand, like maths and physics. I also loved sport, initially just the joy of playing in teams and running around but, as I got older, I also enjoyed the science behind it, the psychology, the physiology and all the equipment that athletes used to get better performance. These interests inspired me when I was looking to study further. I choose to learn more about the materials that are used to make all the things we use every day, and how we can enhance them for use in sport. Now I use my knowledge of materials and processes to develop new machinery for all sorts of things, like medical devices, electric cars, hydrogen powered planes and spacecraft.”

Senior Project Leader, Dorothy Winful: “As a teenager, I did not think ‘this is the career for me’, I was just curious. Maths, art and science were my most enjoyable subjects at school and I was fortunate to be given many opportunities to explore these subjects outside of school. A few examples include Saturday morning maths lectures at UCL, a residential summer programme in STEM at Imperial College, and a science day at Buckingham Palace. When deciding on what to study for A-levels, I did my own research and chose subjects that were suitable to get onto an engineering degree, because of the breadth of career options available and the direct positive impact on society. I have ended up in the realm of metallurgy, and I enjoy supporting clients in planning tests to ensure their selected metal is suitable for its intended design or deducing what went wrong when a metal component has failed.”

Consultant, Carol Johnston: “My grandad was a chemist, and so he introduced me to science at a young age. In school, I liked that science explained the way things work - finding out that you could write down equations to describe what happens to a ball when you throw it up in the air, or writing out the formulas for chemical reactions. What really got me excited about materials science was attending a taster day at the materials department at Birmingham University, where I got to look down a microscope at some etched copper. I remember being completely amazed that metals are made up of grains and those microscopic features control the properties of the material. That got me hooked and I wanted to know more."

Construction and Engineering Sector Manager, Ameni Lounissi: "When I was a young school pupil, I always loved the PPE and tools used by civil engineers! The flashy yellow safety hat was inspiring for me, especially when I saw women wearing it on the TV as they looked like genuine engineers in a manly environment; I knew I wanted to become like them. As I grew up, it was not only the yellow hat that I liked in civil engineering, but also the drawing board, the T-square, the set square, the compass and particularly the blueprints. I dreamt of designing buildings and bridges. I knew what I wanted, so I worked hard and took further maths and physics for my pre-engineering qualifications. I applied for the 3-year MEng course in the Department of Civil Engineering in Tunisia and really enjoyed every aspect of the field. I was involved in yearly internships, which raised my interest in the sector. I would recommend a career in civil engineering for young women and girls as you will bring a different approach and outlook to the field. Hopefully, you can spearhead a new holistic vision of civil engineering going beyond technical and financial considerations and taking greater account of sustainability, lifecycle management, and design for living.”

Principal Project Leader, Melissa Riley: As a child, I was always interested in science, geography and nature, and aeroplanes, and my career aspirations varied somewhat growing up! However, by age 14, I’d set my sights on doing medicine, having been inspired by my local GPs from an early age, but also as a result of the Kegworth Air Disaster, which occurred very close to where I grew up around the time I was choosing my GCSE subjects. I then did three science A-levels, before enrolling on a multidisciplinary B.Med.Sc (Biomaterials) degree, taught between medicine and dentistry and metallurgy and materials. This enabled me to work to my dyslexic strengths, and utilise a broad range of science and engineering skills, something that I continue to do in my current role (the bonus is that I now get to work on aerospace technologies too!).

Over the past 25 years or so, I’ve been involved in developing coatings for hip and knee replacements and high performance engines, preventing high temperature corrosion in biomass and waste to energy plants, and assessing coatings for protecting composite aircraft from lightning strikes. For me, the big motivation comes from solving engineering challenges, making a difference and adding value. I can’t think of any other career that enables people to have such a broad range of pathways and opportunities to follow, and I’m never really sure what’s around the corner!

Senior Project Leader, Dorothee Panggabean: “Studying and working in an engineering environment has exposed me to a range of interesting and exciting settings and situations. While working with people in different projects and environments, I have been able to appreciate their different backgrounds and always look forward to meeting and working with new people.”

Senior Technician, Catherine Leahy: “My passion for engineering began whilst studying my A-levels in physics, maths and chemistry. I was looking for a profession that combined all three of the subjects I loved and engineering was just that. When I was 16, I visited Cambridge University on a three day residential course where I was exposed to a working research laboratory for the first time and I knew from then that I wanted to do a practical, lab-based job.”

You can find out more about The Tipper Group and TWI’s dedication to diversity and inclusion here.

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