Thursday, 16 December 2010
Last week I went down to London for a very special event: the Institute of Engineering and Technology's award ceremony for the Young Woman Engineer of the Year. (Before you ask, no, I didn't win anything. Everyone seems to ask that!)
It's funny because I've never really thought of myself as an 'engineer' but, since I moved into a computer science department, I've been hearing the term more and more. Software engineering, of course... and there's even a journal called Natural Language Engineering which is very much my field. But as I got ready to go out and celebrate the stories of other young women in a variety of engineering disciplines, I wondered if I was going to feel out of place.
It turned out the opposite was true. When I found myself nattering with other girls I'd just met, getting excited together about the prospect of purple steel-toecapped boots (made in women's sizes, for once!), I knew I'd found kindred spirits. It was great to be in a room full of people who - whatever their branch of engineering - seemed to think like me. And it was nice to have girls in the majority for a change! (though, strangely, several of the companies sponsoring the event hadn't even managed to find any young female engineers to represent them)
Thinking more about the definition of engineering, it seems to be mostly about making stuff, and/or working out how to make it. Well, that's very me! But I think it also includes a lot of other women who wouldn't necessarily think of themselves as engineers - anyone who's done knitting or dressmaking, for starters. Fabric engineering, anyone...?