"Yes, you can be a woman in engineering - seeing a woman in the role reinforces that" - Charity Celebrates female engineers for International Women in Engineering Day

21 June 2024

  • Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day with a spotlight on women at Electrical Safety First.
  • Nationally, of those working in engineering roles, only 16% are women.
  • Carolyn Flynn: a product safety engineer with over 40 years of experience recalls how previously, it was not uncommon to be the only female engineer in the room.
  • Emma Hudson: Electrical Safety First Trustee reflects on gender bias in her early career and challenges working overseas.

"Yes, you can be a woman in engineering – seeing a woman in the role helps reinforce that," Emma Hudson, Trustee at Electrical Safety First explains, as she champions female engineers this International Women in Engineering Day (23 June 2024).

Representation is important to Emma, someone who recalls a 25-year rich career in engineering, facing gender bias and a male-dominated environment.

Yet whilst representation of women in engineering has increased since 2010, women working in engineering roles sits at just over 16% in the UK.

Emma is just one of many women at the charity, Electrical Safety First, which prides itself on its technical expertise when it comes to championing consumer protection from dangerous products. Emma sits on its Board of Trustees, she is one of five female members of the Board. The charity’s CEO, Lesley Rudd, and chair, Sarah Frost, are also female and keen champions of representation in the workplace.

Emma Hudson

Early in her career, Emma faced numerous obstacles, including a lack of female representation and supportive networks. She recalls almost not getting a role early on in her career because one person believed she was going to leave and have a baby.

Overcoming gender biases, particularly during her work overseas, Emma highlights the importance of persistence and mentorship.

Her experience in Japan many years ago was particularly important. At the age of 26, she found herself working in a factory where there were no other women engineers. Despite the cultural challenges, Emma kept going and demonstrated her expertise.

“I feel like if I had been a male engineer at that time I wouldn’t have had to do quite as much” she says reflecting on feeling the pressure to prove her expertise in this overseas environment at the time. “Keep going, show them what you're made of",” she advises young women entering the field.

Emma’s dedication and resilience have helped her overcome these biases. She emphasises the importance of finding mentors, stating, “Find your advocates. Lots of women and men out there will happily mentor you on your journey.” 

Product safety engineers at the charity include Carolyn Flynn, who has dedicated over four decades to electrical product safety, starting her career as a lab technician at the age of 19.

Carolyn’s mother, who grew up in the 1950s, encouraged her to pursue a male-oriented job with the belief at the time it would provide for better opportunities and salaries, Carolyn entered a field where she often found herself to be one of only a handful of woman in the room. “It’s always been a pleasure working with the men I've worked with” Carolyn says. She also acknowledges whilst her experiences have been positive she hopes things have become easier for younger women today. “I’m now working with a lot of young women across various departments at Electrical Safety First,” Carolyn adds.”

Carolyn Flynn

Engineering offers a world of opportunities,” Carolyn says. “If you go into engineering on a general level, the doors open all over the place, things that you don't expect. If you've got a good engineering background, the world is almost your oyster. And I think you'd be surprised what you could come across. Go for it, that’s what I'd say!”

This International Women in Engineering Day, Electrical Safety First want to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women, like Emma and Carolyn. Their stories are reminders that engineering is a field in need of continued representation as they champion more women to enter the field.

Encouraging more women to enter the field Emma comments, “Go for it, it’s a great career to have and you can make a difference. Don’t be afraid of it being male-dominated, we need young women to come into engineering to change it. Organisations like WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) are great for finding mentors too. Just do it,” Emma adds, “Engineering has been great for me.”