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International Women in Engineering Day 2022

International Women in Engineering Day 2022

23 June 2022

Today we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day 2022.

To commemorate, we're turning the spotlight on two of our fantastic female colleagues in the School of Engineering.

Katarina Novakovic - Reader in Polymer Engineering

“Believe in yourself, your ideas and your abilities. Failing is just a part of the process of succeeding”

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in?

The male to female ratio in the world is approximately 1:1, while in the engineering workforce this ratio is approximately 10:1, need I say in favour of men. Working in academia in engineering reinforces how big the need for a change is.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

A view or an idea shared in a meeting can have a different reception depending on the gender of the person it came from.

What role would you like to play in relation to women’s rights in your area of expertise?

I would like to empower the rewriting of the rulebook. Working on equality is not good enough if the game we are fighting to play is weightlifting. We need to be involved in defining both the game and the rules of the game.

portrait of 
Katarina Novakovic

What advice would you give to young women considering going into engineering?

Believe in yourself, your ideas and your abilities. Failing is just a part of the process of succeeding.

Which strong women inspire you?

My inspiration does not know gender. The people that inspire me the most, are the ones who were dedicated to the realisation of their ideas, even when they were standing alone on that road. Nikola Tesla sums it up nicely: “Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to their work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.”

Elmira Alimohammadzadeh- Postgraduate Researcher in Mechanical Engineering (working on graphene biosensors)

“When women see other women in roles, they can more easily envisage themselves in those situations and are more likely to apply”

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in?

In my opinion, being an engineer and a researcher entail being innovative and open to new ideas, which contribute to changing people’s lives and making a meaningful impact on the world. Being a woman in engineering is about encouraging and empowering young girls to help them reach their goals. It is about venturing into unexplored territory and enjoying what you do.

Being a woman in engineering is not any different than being a man in engineering and research; there are simply fewer women in the field, most likely due to differences in societal expectations. Women in engineering go against the norm and succeed just as much as their male peers. It’s incredibly rewarding to see yourself performing an essential role in the workplace and society.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

Being a woman in engineering can be difficult because I am the minority. As a result, I stand out. It can be difficult and daunting, leading to a lack of confidence and a sense of isolation at times, but it has also encouraged me to work even harder and succeed. There is also a negative bias or rather doubt about women's skills and commitment in the field. However, I feel that if one works hard and performs well, people will appreciate and respect them.

On the other hand, having women engineers on a team provides the most benefits in terms of a variety of thought and approaches. A diverse team contains people from many backgrounds and experiences, unlike a male-dominated perspective.

Elmira portrait

What role would you like to play in relation to women’s rights in your area of expertise?

People are usually encouraged to undertake something when they see others who look like them doing it. When women see other women in roles, they can more easily envisage themselves in those situations and are more likely to apply. Furthermore, when they observe women in positions of power, they are more willing to speak up for themselves.

I continue to fight my unconscious bias against women. Our unconscious brain finds it easier to accept what we perceive as 'norms'. When we face differences, we may have knee-jerk reactions. This particularly impacts women in engineering and research, where they are underrepresented and are still considered as 'counter-culture' in some locations. Furthermore, I continue to participate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programmes for youngsters. Girls must be inspired to pursue careers in engineering and research from an early age.

What advice would you give to young women considering going into engineering?

Follow your passions and dreams, girls! Don't be put off by a room full of males and people who don't resemble you. People will have no choice but to respect you if you follow your passion, learn as much as you can, and perform a good job.

Women are overly prepared and underconfident. It is critical to match your skill with your confidence, believe in your own brilliance, and to seize the possibilities that present themselves.

Which strong women inspire you?

Marie Curie has demonstrated that gender is not a factor in research and that women can be excellent scientists. She paved the way for future generations of female engineers and scientists, including myself.

Melinda Gates has achieved incredible accomplishments in combating disease, improving agriculture, and breaking down barriers for women.

Sarah L Murray is the project and technical lead in NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program. She has motivated me to stand up for myself, pursue my passion and fight for my dreams when faced with obstacles.

Last but not least, my mother, Fatemeh Safaeian, is a former IranAir airliner safety and maintenance analyst. I was inspired to become an engineer after visiting her workplace and seeing how dedicated she was to her career. She has taught me that hard times can be overcome, and losing battles can be won when you stand up for what you believe.

Want to find out more?

If you’re considering an exciting, rewarding and creative career in engineering, find out more about our different programmes on our study with us page.