International Women in Engineering Day: let’s hear it for the girls

International Women in Engineering Day is celebrating its tenth year on 23 June – and engineers from the UK’s biggest electricity distribution company shared insights about their roles.

Sima Davarzani, from north west London, works as a technology engineer for the Distribution System Operator (DSO) directorate at UK Power Networks.

Sima explains, “Our task is to enable energy generators to connect into our network faster and cheaper and balance the power flows, it’s a very different engineering model from the way electricity networks traditionally operate. Our aim is to develop smart solutions that will expediate the net zero transition, whilst we continue to keep the lights on for the communities we serve.

“Engineering can sometimes be a scary prospect for women, with the complexities of a sector which is often male-dominated. But things are changing: we see more women, and the stigma that there needs to be an ultra-high level of intelligence for these engineering roles is no longer there. It is about confidence and training, and opportunities are opening up for everyone.”

She adds, “I get the most benefit from this being my passion, it is my dream job.”

While working towards her PhD, Sima researched how network operators can transform into DSOs, and is now making that vision a reality through her work. “Never give up,” Sima says, “Do not let anyone put you off: do what you need to do. If you are persistent, and looking at the big picture for your goals, you will get there.”

Deborah Aderonmu, Assistant Project Manager based in south London, has a decade of experience in construction and engineering.

Deborah says, “I manage a multi-disciplinary team, supporting them and identifying what is required for them to undertake their roles. For example a planner will need a programme review, and a quantity surveyor needs a commercial review. The role entails coordination to successfully execute the work. Another key role is talking to interested parties outside our company and keeping them informed.

“I love the flexibility in terms of working at a range of sites and offices. It’s great to make new contacts with colleagues at work. It’s good to stand back, look at the project and say, ‘I contributed towards that’. It is rewarding knowing your work facilitated the next step, and that you were a crucial cog in the machine.”

Lauren Chappell operates as a field engineer in central London.

She says, “My role as a field engineer is to support colleagues and keep the lights on for communities, by fixing any faults. I oversee and manage staff on site by preparing job packs and putting people safely to work, and ensure correct procedures are followed on site.

“Physical work has always been seen as a male job role, but times are changing and women are becoming more aware of opportunities in this sector. You will be surprised how rewarding working in this industry can be and just how capable you really are. There are great opportunities for different career paths within the sector; you are always able to push your knowledge, learn and develop new skills.”

UK Power Networks will be promoting a number of initiatives to empower and promote gender diversity in engineering. These include a Colchester event in partnership with Essex County Council to encourage more young women to consider a career in engineering. An all-female panel of UK Power Networks engineers will be inspiring the potential next generation of female engineers.

UK Power Networks is launching a Female Engineers Development group to help shape the future of female employees.

It aims to gain a deep understanding of the needs, challenges, and aspirations of female engineers, to develop strategies and initiatives that remove any barriers to personal and professional growth. The company recently extended maternity pay from six weeks to 26 weeks, and staff are taking part in a Parental Allyship Webinar in partnership with Returning Works.

The session on 23 June will raise awareness of the impact of parenthood in the workplace, so that colleagues know how to create a family friendly environment where parents want to work.

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