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Home » Women in STEM » Making a difference in a male world: A female perspective in engineering

Yvonne Lynam

HSE Director, Advanced Facilities, Jacobs Engineering

Elaine Clarke

Project Engineer, Jacobs

Female school leavers have more opportunities than ever before and a career in engineering is one of them. Here is what they could be looking at. 

For the latest generation of women currently leaving school, engineering may not be their first choice of career, but for many it should be. Traditionally seen as a male field, it actually offers huge opportunities for women, as Yvonne Lynam, HSE Director, Advanced Facilities, Jacobs and Elaine Clarke, Project Engineer, Jacobs, can both attest. 

“I was interested in science and maths at school,” says Elaine, “and I was advised to study engineering. I’d been at an all girl’s convent school and it hadn’t been factored in at all. But when I was 17 I had a good maths teacher and I enjoyed problem solving, so he suggested I apply.” 

Yvonne had a slightly different way in. “It’s not that I chose the career but it chose me,” she says. “I left school at 17 and started in admin for Jacobs and I enjoyed the site work, but I looked at the men around me and knew I could do that. So I went back for a part time qualification. Previously I’d had a brief exposure to metal work and technical drawing at school but that was it.” 

Engineering remains a male dominated field: was that a concern? “Yes,” says Elaine frankly. “There were 30 women on my engineering course and 200 men. But it didn’t stop me and I came to love the job because I get to work on different project and different locations, including Croatia, Belgium and the States.” 

No two days are the same. You may be playing a small role yourself but you are making changes.

Yvonne was not so concerned about male domination: “Some men doubted me but that was down to them, not me. And adding the female dynamic can be very beneficial. You just have to be willing to learn.” She also loves the variety: “No two days are the same. You may be playing a small role yourself but you are making changes, for example by working in life saving projects. And I love passing on my experience to others.” Of course this could not be more topical: the pharmaceuticals and vaccines industry crop up in talking to both Yvonne and Elaine. 

So what would their advice be to female school leavers thinking about a career in engineering? “Do it,” says Elaine. “If you are even thinking about it you have the inclination and you will not be narrowing your options.” Yvonne agrees. “Go for it,” she says. “The industry opens so many opportunities for you. It broadens your horizons, takes you out of your comfort zone and helps you to grow.” 

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