We put several questions to our incredible STEMinist champions to tell us more about their work, future goals, and role models. Read more here from our winners:
• Gender Champion, FemEng, a University of Glasgow networking group for women students studying engineering.
• Woman in STEM champion, Jenn McLeod, Process Engineer at Procter and Gamble.
• Student in STEM champion, Hai San Lam, MEng structural engineering student at Heriot Watt University.
Describe the work that you/your organisation does?
FemEng: FemEng leads a number of different projects including an extensive outreach programme, a mentoring scheme which pairs students with professionals in industry, a networking programme that includes discussion panels and employability skills workshops and many socials for our members to get to know other female engineering students at the university.
Hai San Lam: I am currently a fifth year MEng Structural Engineering with Architectural Design student at Heriot Watt University actively supporting and advocating for women in the construction. The topics that I am really interested in is net-zero carbon, materials and design of reinforced concrete structures.
Jenn: My role here as an intern was a project engineer where I was more facilities/behind the scenes of our operations. I delivered projects to enhance site security, environmental safety and electrical safety. I worked to establish capital systems, project budget, scheduling, communicating business risks and managing both colleagues and external contractors to deliver the project on time, in budget with no safety or quality issues.
Now in my role as a Process engineer for old spice and Gillette foam I work with the line technicians and operators to drive losses essentially to get as many cans out the door as efficiently as possible all while building understanding of the machines and developing my teams skills to solve losses independently.
I am also start up leader on one of our new Old spice initiatives to drive more business into the plant my role in the team involves modifying all of our filling and packing equipment to suit the new product range. This is my most and least favourite part of my job as I am working to tight timescales which often leads to long hours but is very rewarding to learn and problem solve through the issues knowing the team have taken a new product concept and made this a reality for the range to get onto supermarket shelves!
P&G isn’t just calculators and equations which is what I love about it (I really am a people person at heart), when you join as a graduate you are enrolled to their leadership programme which means they want you to develop into a manager of others. I’ve been given huge responsibilities from day 1 in true sink or swim style but sometimes it pays off and it’s all worth it, when it doesn’t you learn from it there’s really nothing to lose!
How are you planning to continue this work?
Hai San Lam: I would like to continue to reach out to my peers and mentor younger STEM students as well as challenging persisting stereotypes. But also continue to attend guest speaker events whilst developing additional skills to succeed. I am aware that civil/ structural engineering roles are to solve problems and improve the quality of life, and through such work I can impact/ influence positively on the life of others.
Also, continue working closely with Equate Scotland as I was given two opportunities to participate with ConStructEd – once being in a student position and second time as a supervisor.
Jenn: I have annual work goals and regular career conversations which allow me to spend my time on both performance work to impact the business and personal growth. I very much enjoy networking within the company and reaching out for advice to other departments (out with Reading) we really have got a lot of clever and inspirational employees.
FemEng: We are in the process of relaunching our virtual outreach programme with brand new videos and mentors. This gives the children and teachers some variety and choice and gives students more opportunity to take part in outreach. As in-person activities are returning back to normal, we are slowly resuming in person activities including in-person socials which have proven to be very popular. We will also continue our work with the Women’s Engineering Society as we collaborate with other universities to support and guide one another.
What are you most proud of achieving in the last year?
Jenn: A graduate job!!! It is the most dreaded thing in your final year to graduate with no where to go, fortunately I was in the right place at the right time and performed well enough to be offered a job I couldn’t refuse. Not only have I settled down in reading during an incredibly difficult time but I have established true friendships, joined a netball team, and graduated with a first class degree (doesn’t feel real without a real graduation so I always forget about this!!)
FemEng: FemEng has adapted amazingly to the pandemic, during 2020 we launched a virtual outreach programme – we had never gone virtual before and never at such a big scale! The virtual outreach programme reached over 600 school children across the UK and allowed our members to take part in the outreach programme from the comfort of their own homes!
Hai San Lam: Submitting my dissertation on ‘Assessing the Behaviour of Steel Fibre Reinforced Concrete Beam subjected to Impact Loading’ during the pandemic. This was a large obstacle as my research was initially experimental based and eventually had to become Finite Element (FE) software based.
What does this award mean to you?
FemEng: We are so proud to be the STEMinist Gender Champions! FemEng have been working so hard over the past few years to empower women in engineering and in-turn encourage more girls to study engineering. We are so grateful for the recognition of our hard work and now we can have a meaning behind our self-designed ‘STEMINIST’ t shirts!
Hai San Lam: I am honoured and thrilled to receive this award as it encourages me to continue inspiring the future generations as well as my colleagues. I appreciate my recognition for all the works I have been doing for the past years and I look forward to continuing to do so in my future workplace.
I am thankful to a number of people who took part in my journey, these include: my family, my friends, Dale Lyon, Demetrios Cotsovos and Yewande Akinola.
Jenn: The fact 3 people nominated me for this award is great, it’s always good to receive nice feedback and a pat on the back but it’s amazing to be recognised for the continued work I am doing to promote women in engineering roles and STEM. I think now more than ever we have a real driving force to back women in these stereotypically male roles. Often there are events I have attended and politics in workplaces that are gradually moving towards an equal world and really it is a privilege to contribute to this. I hope that in gaining this award and sharing my journey I can inspire others to follow in these footsteps.
What importance do you think role models hold in encouraging women and girls to pursue careers in STEM?
Hai San Lam: Role models play a significant role in any women and girls pursuing the STEM subjects as it can bring positive perspectives about these careers. Particularly female role models, as they show the power of breaking the gender barriers and negative stereotypes associated with women. There can be many valuable advice to show the younger generation the value of determination, passion, inspiration, and selflessness.
Jenn: Everybody deserves a chance to be accepted in any role, role modelling is the perfect way to do this it helps everyone envision other women in the same position. A women’s network in a STEM environment is crucial to support each other through different challenges that may be faced and to provide career guidance. It is common for women to leave STEM careers so to have role models and advice to guide others through difficult life or work choices can be the deciding factor in staying in the industry. In other words – CRUCIAL!
FemEng: Positive female role models are so important to us. FemEng are already working so hard to provide inspiration to future budding female engineers across Scotland, Rwanda and Malawi. We believe that anyone can be a role model – we are often surrounded by many engineering role models at our weekly meetings!
Who are your STEMinist role models?
Jenn: My tech teacher, Mrs Fleming, originally got me involved in construction/product design and helped me choose my university course – who I continue to keep in touch with.
Emily Lewis – my manager (as a P&G intern) now mentor & friend who continually supports me through my early career decisions. It’s always good to have someone to ask silly questions who isnt going to judge you and sets a great example to other women in STEM. She continues to support women’s events and promote equality in the workplace.
Hai San Lam:
Demetrios Cotsovos ‘…you are overthinking everything.’
Yewande Akinola – ‘…difficult does not mean impossible.’
FemEng: All the female engineers who came before us and paved the way so that we can be where we are now!