Until there is parity in the field, International Women in Engineering Day is necessary to try to redress the balance in the industry, an engineer working on Mars rovers has said.
Abbie Hutty, principal systems engineer, Sample Fetch Rover Mission at Airbus Defence and Space, said the industry had come a long way, but there was still more work to do.
She said that when it comes to technical meetings and the day-to-day functions of the job, gender is “absolutely irrelevant”, and everyone is just part of a team.
But elsewhere in the industry, there are concerns that promotions are still offered on a “bit of an old boys’ club mentality”.
Ms Hutty told the PA news agency: “Some women have felt disenfranchised by that.
“And then there’s a whole bunch of legacy stuff which is changing, but maybe still has a little way to go, like just the facilities and the supply chains for things like protective gear.
“Like the clean room coats are never available in the smaller sizes, and you know, ridiculous things like that that don’t fundamentally make that much of a difference to your work and how you do, but just remind you that women have not been a big part of the workforce, historically.
“That can just remind you of the fact that you are still a minority and not the normal engineer, as it were.”
Ms Hutty said she would like to think the focus on getting more women and diversity into the profession is more of a culture shift than a temporary focus.
She added that women joining the engineering workforce have always been in a minority, but that minority is increasing in size.
Speaking on International Women in Engineering Day, Ms Hutty explained: “Whilst I would love there to not have to be this day because we’ve reached parity and becoming a women in engineering is not noteworthy, and not worth having a day for, we’re not there yet, so it’s just a good opportunity to help try and redress that balance.”
She added that the day was an opportunity to highlight the roles and opportunities available in the field, and draw attention to a little-understood profession.
Explaining some of her work at Airbus, Ms Hutton said: “I worked on ExoMars for nearly eight years, which will be the first European Mars rover. And that’s due to launch next year.
“That was basically my dream job and I was doing it by the age of 25 which is just – you have to go and find bigger dreams at that point, don’t you?
“But then Sample Fetch, is a really nice kind of progression from that because I’m getting to use a lot of the stuff that I learned and developed and did on ExoMars but on a new mission.
“It’s paired with Nasa and is going to collect the samples that Perseverance has cached on the surface of Mars.
“I can’t really claim ownership of any one particular detail on the rover but my job is making sure that the whole thing works together.”