Being a woman in engineering is no easy feat, but it’s slowly getting easier. As of June 2021, figures showed that 16.5% of engineers are women – a 25.7% increase over the course of five years. But what does it mean to be a woman in engineering? Raytheon UK’s Pam tells us what led her down her chosen career path, and why raising awareness as a STEM Ambassador is important.
Like most, Pam found her flair for STEM at school. Combining her love for problem-solving and already taking a proactive role as a young Sea Cadet – Pam set her sights on a career in the Armed Forces.
“I became interested in Engineering in my mid-teens and my physics teacher told me that good engineers would always find work. At the time, my father had been made redundant and was out of work for six months, so this was important to me."
“I took Physics and Maths at GCSE and A Level, but I also took the opportunity to find out what a career in Engineering would really be like, so I signed up for a Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) summer holiday course during my A Levels. It gave me a real insight into engineering as a profession and the opportunities that could be available to me,” She said.
Following her A Levels, Pam immediately signed up for the Royal Navy where she stayed for 13 years as an Air Engineering Officer, where she served in a variety of appointments – from managing the maintenance of helicopter fleets to working in Whitehall as a Military Assistant to the Vice Chief of Defence Staff.
After completing her MBA at Imperial College London, Pam made the jump to the corporate side at Rolls-Royce PLC.
“I joined Rolls-Royce PLC where I spent 15 years, working first in Defence Aerospace as Head of Business Development and then Programme Executive on the Joint Strike Fighter Programme where I undertook a number of Programme Executive appointments including delivery of three new engine types on the Trent 1000 and Trent 7000 Programmes for Boeing and Airbus.”
Now the Head of Engineering Performance Excellence at Raytheon UK, Pam works to empower engineers – encouraging them to always take time to work on their professional development.
“We are so busy at Raytheon UK that it’s difficult to create the opportunities for our engineers to take time out for training and continuous professional development. It’s so important that we do this though to continue to have the most capable engineers who can deliver cutting-edge technologies and products.”
Whilst her work enables her to work with her current cohort of engineers – Pam is passionate about supporting the next generation of engineers through her work as a STEM Ambassador. Having been a STEM Ambassador for five years, she has supported a number of students through Raytheon Technologies Quadcopter Challenge as well as running CV workshops and giving key-note speeches to aspiring engineers.
According to a recent survey, young people who attend STEM outreach events are more likely to know what engineers do – but only a quarter of those surveyed had been to such an event. This is why Pam’s work as a STEM Ambassador is so important.
“When I joined the Royal Navy, only 7% of women went into STEM roles, whereas the average now is about 15%. That’s still not good enough though and awareness events play a vital role in raising interest in STEM careers and more importantly providing and celebrating role models.”
So, how does she hope to see the sector progress over the next few years to encourage more women into STEM?
“I’d love to see more women role models step forward and be promoted into positions of influence in STEM companies and organisations. During my career I have really struggled to identify women role models or mentors who could help me with issues and challenges. I now see this as one of my primary responsibilities – to reach out and help women progress.”