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On the 18-19 November engineers and students gathered for the annual Women’s Engineering Society (WES) Student Conference at Aston University for two days of industry insight from a female perspective. Six students were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to represent the University of Birmingham at this inspirational conference. Here are some of our thoughts on the event:

WES 2016 attendees
WES 2016 Teleporter design concept

Jess Azige, 3rd year BEng Computer Systems Engineering student, says:

The schedule of the events was very well structured and extremely interesting. One talk in particular that I really enjoyed was entitled ‘Who Wants Holes? Introduction to Trenchless Technology’. The session was split into 3 parts; we had a brief overview on the methods of repairing and replacing pipes before splitting into groups to be given different scenarios and then, using what we had learnt, presented our solutions and reasons for making those decisions. Not only did this give us the chance to meet new people, but it was also a brilliant exercise to improve our ability to work under pressure with limited time and information. Even with the obscure topic area, it was really enjoyable to discuss our ideas and come up with a solution, as well as view other groups’ scenarios and their own suggestions to resolve the problem.

Inge-Sarah Andersen, final year BEng Electronic and Electrical Engineering, writes:

I left the conference instilled with a newfound sense of self confidence in my engineering ability! The welcome speech by Professor Alison Hodge addressed some of the barriers that women face in the sector and was very inspirational, especially as she is the first female engineer to be accredited by the Institute of Physics (IoP). 

Another talk that I found especially enjoyable was entitled ‘Role models, identity and confidence: when does it start to matter?’ by Dr Joanna Collingwood. She highlighted the importance of involving men in the conversation when it comes to combating both workplace sexism and sexism in wider society.

The highlight for me was networking! On the first evening we had the wonderful conference dinner where we got to talk to interesting female professionals about their daily lives and experiences. I was sat next to two army engineers who fascinated me with the potential opportunities open to me as an engineer! Over the two days I was able to talk to lots of people, both students and professionals, and gain new insights as well as future contacts.

Isobel Romero-Shaw, 3rd year MSci Physics student:

Prior to attending the WES Conference I had been vaguely aware that I was amongst a minority of relatively few female Physics students.  However, it was truly astonishing to be surrounded by so many like-minded women from an incredibly broad range of backgrounds and interests, all with engineering and technology-based aspirations.

Through the organised workshops we were encouraged to work closely as teams to deliver efficient solutions in limited timeframes before presenting these solutions to our audience.

I also enjoyed the social components of the weekend such as the three-course banquet in which we were able to interact in an atmosphere that was both constructive and delightful.

It was a truly excellent experience, making for a deeply inspiring weekend that has dramatically increased my confidence in pursuing a career in this currently male-dominated field.

Mahsa Dehghani, 4th year Materials Science and Engineering, explains:

I found the CV writing workshop very useful and informative as it covered a lot of necessary information with regards to engineering applications and cover letter. 

Overall the Conference was great and it was very encouraging to meet so many like-minded and successful female engineers in different stages of their journey.

Additionally, it was incredibly useful to get advice from senior female professionals who have industry experience, as they were very open on sharing their experiences on how to overcome the challenges that a female engineer might find in her career.

Toni-Bianca DiPaolo, EngD Formulation Engineering postgraduate researcher, says:

The communication skills workshop was something unexpected but opened my eyes to an alternative approach to preparing for a presentation and dealing with those pre-presentation nerves. It allowed me to relax a bit during the session and have fun whilst learning some useful techniques.

The practical skills workshop gave an insight into what is required to develop an idea to the point where it can be pitched to potential investors. It really made us think about the stages required when developing ideas to ensure the project is feasible, sustainable, realistic and cost-effective. The workshop was also a chance to experience working within an interdisciplinary team where you all have different interests, strengths and weaknesses, which is very realistic when working within the engineering sector. Overall I felt that this workshop made you think in a more commercial way rather than purely scientifically and the skills learnt will be very relevant for life after university.

Overall we all really enjoyed the event, would recommend you to consider attending yourself, and hope to be able to go again next year!