It was plain sailing for Truro High School’s Aspiring Engineers as they welcomed naval architect, Dr Rachel Nicholls-Lee, for the second instalment of the programme’s Evening Lecture Series.
The founder and director of naval architecture consultants Whiskerstay, Dr Nicholls-Lee is a Chartered Engineer with extensive experience in the marine renewable energy and yacht design sectors. The recipient of the IMarEST Marine Ambassador Award in 2016, Dr Nicholls-Lee is currently drawing on her expertise in yacht and commercial vessel design, adaptive composite technology, optimisation methods and renewable energy in order to develop high performance electric and hybrid boats.
Discussing her wide and varied career in marine engineering and renewable energies, Dr Nicholls-Lee focussed her lecture on her experiences as a woman in this male-dominated industry and considered the “female future” of engineering.
With a call to follow your passions and stand strong in the face of gender stereotyping, Dr Nicholls-Lee urged her audience of aspiring female engineers to consider what they would do with their careers if they weren’t afraid.
She said: “Just over 100 years ago women didn’t even have the right to vote. Looking back, it’s easy to think that we’ve made it in terms of equal representation but we’ve still got a very long way to go.”
Women remain woefully underrepresented in the world of engineering. Currently only 9% of the workforce in British engineering companies is female.
In an interview with the Guardian this year one of the profession’s leading figures said that this figure is a source of great embarrassment.
Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering said, “engineers have a huge role in designing the infrastructure of the world around us and designing algorithms embedded in the world around us. It cannot be healthy that they don’t reflect the broader society that those algorithms and that infrastructure serves.”
Truro High Aspiring Engineers Programme aims to help redress the balance. The bespoke programme offers students, interested in pursuing a career in engineering and furthering their knowledge of this industry, a tailored calendar of lectures, workshops, mentoring and one-to-one support to make their engineering aspirations a reality.
Head of STEM, Mr Jon Dean said: “Lectures like this really open eyes into engineering. One of the most important things for girls to find out about is what the opportunities are in the industry and to tool themselves up to make sure they are the right candidate for the job and become the best in their field. Making these opportunities available at Truro High is something I’m very passionate about and it’s great to see so many girls making the most of them tonight.”