International Women In Engineering Day: an opportunity to celebrate successes

Posted by James Donaldson


Shiby Bernard, chief operations officer at McMenon Engineering Services

I feel a sense of gratitude to International Women In Engineering Day for not only reminding the world about the role of women in engineering, but celebrating it too.

The 2020 theme ‘Shape The World' is more relevant than ever at a time when the world is battered by Covid-19 and women in engineering and other fields share an equal responsibility in shaping the world.

The real fun in engineering is the creative space it allows. It lets your imagination flow while constantly challenging you to find solutions. To know that you are part of the process of creating something or solving a problem is a hugely positive and fulfilling experience.

To every female out there, girls in school or women interested in engineering and looking to switch careers into engineering related roles as I did, I'd just like to say: go out and explore the variety of options within engineering and find one that will allow you to express yourself best.

The gender stereotypes around engineering are perhaps an obvious barrier. In addition to the stereotypes that men are better at engineering, and that engineering is better suited for men, there is another: that women are not interested in science or engineering. Growing up in India, which has a very rigorous education system, I have first-hand experience of how good girls are in STEM subjects and the large number of girls who pass out every year with top grades has proved the above stereotypes are seriously flawed.

Personally, I don't consider working in an engineering or manufacturing workplace as unusual, though they are described as traditionally male oriented. I see it as a place of work and carry on with my responsibilities. I do appreciate this may not be the case for many women as stereotypes remain worldwide even today. While we have made much advances, a major shift in the workplace culture is required to encourage more women into engineering; to allow them equal and fair space to exhibit their individuality and creativity to design, build and solve technical problems.

While we often hear the phrase “catch ‘em young” to influence change among young and impressionable minds, I feel it is also an absolute must to get the experienced and, most importantly, senior management personnel to understand that gender bias is a real thing and in most cases an invisible force. Working in engineering is the privilege, not being the man.

I would like to see effective engineering work placement opportunities for school students that give them an experience of actually creating something or solving a technical problem, and not merely assigned desk work in an engineering company with HSE used as a convenient excuse.

McMenon is a young company that has taken over an engineering business with over 70 years of heritage. Diversity is a fundamental policy at McMenon and we make every effort to promote it, with the importance of diversity and our ambitions to increase it highlighted in every internal and external presentation we make.

As chief operations officer I am responsible for the operational functions of the business which includes engineering, manufacturing, product development, logistics, quality, HSE, IT systems and facilities. With over 15,000 products manufactured on-site each year, including many engineered-to-order products, and exported globally, the challenge is real and fulfilling. Our primary products are DP (differential pressure) flow meters and temperature measurement instrumentation.

Subject to being the best person for the job, we would like to increase the number of women working for us, particularly within technical roles. While we are keen to increase the number of qualified women engineers in our organisation, I'd like to highlight that the roles played by each woman in our business, ranging from building equipment in the workshop to specialist sales, require a good level of technical understanding and experience.

We take pride that we have women from diverse backgrounds now leading and supporting us in key engineering and related departments. From an apprentice in our temperature manufacturing department and team leaders managing engineered products and services to the chief operations officer at McMenon and board member: we have women leading the way – shaping our world.

McMenon Engineering Services is an Aberdeen registered company with a world-class manufacturing facility based in Workington, Cumbria. Its products are used in more than 50 countries. Shiby, who has a Masters in Purchasing and Supply Chain Management from Robert Gordon University, was group QHSE manager at an Aberdeen oilfield services firm for eight years before being part of the senior management team that launched McMenon Engineering Services in 2017.

International Women in Engineering Day – June 23 – is an awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. It also celebrates the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world. The event is organised by The Women's Engineering Society. This year's theme is #ShapeTheWorld #INWED20

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