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Engineering positive change for women

Engineering positive change for women

SQN’s Carrie Mathieson discusses her experience of male-dominated industries

Engineering has always played an influential role in my life. As the daughter of an electrical engineer, my family moved across the UK in my childhood as my dad took on new roles within the industry. Both directly and indirectly, engineering introduced us to different communities and gave us experiences we never would have had otherwise.

I really wanted to be an engineer like my dad, but my experience of science and maths in school put me off – and my strengths were in languages, arts and humanities. Most, if not all, of the engineers I met were men, subconsciously reinforcing a false narrative in my formative years that engineering wasn’t something women did. I later found a passion for motorsport, and decided PR and communications was the right path for me.

I’ve been in and around motorsport paddocks for my entire career to date; from Formula E to WTCR, and most recently at the inaugural ETCR event in Vallelunga. Ever since I first fell in love with motorsport, I’ve had to fight the stigma of enjoying, and then working in, what everyone thought was a male domain. It was frustrating, and I wanted to do something about it. I try to do anything I can to play a role in getting more women into male dominated industries, making opportunities easier to access, and ensuring they have a safe and professional working environment.

I’ve been fortunate in my time at SQN to explore ways we can increase awareness of the numerous opportunities to women in both motorsport and engineering. One of the clients we have supported in recent years is Greenpower – which is brilliantly tackling both.

We’ve met some truly fantastic young people – both girls and boys – and the leaders, teachers and role models that inspire them into STEM. The charity uses motorsport as a hook, and while some participants have gone on to careers in Formula 1, there are many others who have ventured into engineering roles.

It shows how powerful a platform Greenpower is; its CEO Paul van Veggel is spot on when he says: “you can’t be what you can’t see”. By showing young people what engineering in action looks like, Greenpower is challenging perceptions and offering opportunities to those who may not have had them otherwise. Greenpower dismantles some of the obstacles in the path towards a STEM career.

For me, engineering is about finding creative solutions to problems we face. It refuses to accept the status quo – the way we’ve always done something isn’t a good enough reason to keep doing it. But it is vital we have a diversity of voices and lived experiences in the rooms making decisions, so we have to start breaking down some barriers. If you’ll pardon the pun, it is time to engineer some positive change. Even today, I get raised eyebrows when I talk about my job – but it’s a bit less frequent now than when I first started. I’d like to think it won’t happen at all soon. Hopefully young women questioning whether they can break into male-dominated industries like engineering and motorsport will be a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future. They can just crack on with it. Wouldn’t that be progress?