In honour of International Women’s Day, which took place on Sunday 8th March, we want to take the time to celebrate the contributions that women in engineering make at Althea – and highlight why it’s still important to promote engineering as a career path for all.

The number of women in engineering roles has nearly doubled in the last decade – from just over 25,000 to just over 50,000. New government data shows that there are now one million women in STEM roles in the UK – an increase of over 350,000 in the last ten years. While this is great, there is still more to be done, as overall the proportion of women in tech roles remains at 16%, the same figure it has sat at for the last ten years. The UK still lags far behind the rest of Europe in its efforts to employ female engineers.

Just over 10%

Women now account for just over 10% of engineering professionals in the UK. It’s been great to see how this figure has progressed over the years. But Britain still has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe – Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30%. For a country that prides itself on its diversity – and opportunity – this number is still shockingly low.

The benefits of a diverse workforce cannot be underestimated. Not only does it create a richer pool of talent, but it also allows companies to be more productive. Research shows that companies are 15% more likely to perform better if they are gender diverse. It’s easy to grasp at statistics, but the inherent value of diversity is self-evident in its contributions to creativity and innovative thinking, and its relations to progress. Simply put, engineering is dedicated to real-word problem solving – rooted in imaginative, forward-thinking concepts, simple or complex; the exchange of experience and ideas, and how this can be applied to enhance the world around us. How can this be achieved without inclusion and diversity of thought? Different people bring different ideas, but diversity – in whatever form – enriches its capabilities.

Inspiring people from a younger age

As a STEM ambassador, I often go into schools, colleges and other similar locations to help with school projects or provide advice on career days. One thing I have seen is that junior school children don’t have misconceptions regarding science and engineering. As children progress to high school age, they begin to formulate an image of the engineering profession from the outside world – from what they see on TV, in the media, from parents – which almost always ends up solidifying their perception of engineering as something that is ‘not for girls’.

It’s important to challenge stereotypes so that the window of opportunity remains open to everyone, regardless of their gender or age. To break down this image, it is important that they have access to positive role models and see more of women in engineering at work.

What are we doing at Althea?

Althea prides itself on breaking down technological barriers, and enhancing patient care, meaning we rely on a large, dynamic pool of talent. This includes the expertise and collaborative efforts of over 3,000 engineers, technicians, administrators, apprentices, and customer service specialists, all across the globe. We like to support our staff in their professional development, and alongside great training opportunities we also offer a great apprenticeship programme to help young people fire up their career – and explore those they may not have been familiar with before.

Here at Althea we want to shed light on our own amazing women in engineering. First stop is Carla Wood.

Before joining Althea, Carla served 15 years in the NHS starting at The Kent and Canterbury Hospital on placement where she studied her BEng in Electronics with Medical Electronics. She has had many roles within the NHS throughout the East of England including Medical Technical Officer, Senior Medical Electronics Engineer, Medical Devices Manager/Medical Devices Safety Lead alongside completing her MSc in Clinical Engineering. Carla joined Althea in 2014 as Clinical Equipment Manager before becoming MES Operations Manager in Peterborough. She is currently in phase one of submitting her CEng and hopefully will be the first Althea UK woman with CEng after her name!

Mehrnoosh Atashbiz completed work experience in 1998 whilst studying BSc in Biomedical Engineering back in Iran. She worked in Medical Equipment R&D Establishment as a Design Engineer before starting her career in the UK in 2004. Mehrnoosh worked as a Biomedical Engineer until 2006 when she was promoted to an EBME Workshop Supervisor. She studied MSc in Medical Electronics and Physics whilst working full time and completed the course in 2009. She is now a Service Manager for Althea.

Louise Spridgeon has completed two introductory level courses with us and is a mature student currently attending Peterborough College doing her Level Three Electronic and Electrical Engineering BTEC, whilst her son is now also attending college! Louise is enjoying working through the Althea training programme which I have developed for her.

Parisa and Samira Esfahani – Parisa is one of our amazing Power Systems Engineers while Samira joins us as one of our talented Biomedical Engineers (they’re sisters). Both have both completed several training courses, including more recently An Introduction to Anaesthesia and Ventilation.

Pegah Monem originally started at Althea as a Junior Biomedical Engineer from TBS, before being promoted to Senior Biomedical Engineer and has just been promoted to Lead Engineer at RNOH Stanmore. Well done Pegah!

Finally, Sue Simpson has a BEng (Hons) Electronic and Electrical Engineering, an MSc in Medical Physics and is a Registered Clinical Scientist. Sue started her career in the NHS in Radiotherapy Physics, moved to Clinical Engineering Management with a team of 20+ engineers and scientists for a 2000 bed NHS Trust before joining what is now Althea in 2006. Sue is currently UK Head of MES Operations for Althea and a member of the senior management team.

Happy International Women’s Day, to all our amazing staff – who bring an invaluable wealth of talent, skills and experience to Althea – and to you! #IWD2020 #EachforEqual

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