Multidisciplinary teams and culturally diverse environments are essential for companies to succeed, said the Women in Engineering forum guest speaker.
According to Dr Caroline Hargrove, Technical Director of Applied Technologies at McLaren, inspiring girls to study STEM subjects is the responsibility of all female engineers today, and by creating more female friendly workplaces, companies can become more innovative and successful.
Hargrove was speaking last week at a guest lecture organised by the Women in Engineering forum, the group that meets termly to provide a sociable and informative environment for women from across the Faculty.
Introduced by Professor Mary Ryan, the Faculty’s new ambassador for women, Hargrove gave an insight into life in the “real world” outside higher education and the “big circus” of F1 racing teams. She also spoke about life as an academic and the experience of returning to work after having children in a wide-ranging and engaging talk.
The audience of staff and students listened intently to stories about working with “prima donna” racing drivers and dealing with the difficulty of constantly travelling round the world and proving your worth in a competitive, male-dominated environment.
Hargrove spoke about her background in academia, having achieved a PhD in Engineering and gone on to work as a lecturer at Cambridge University, and making the transition into industry. She explained: “In academia you publish and collaborate with the outside world, in F1 you don’t want your competitors to know what you’re doing.”
As her role at McLaren developed, Hargrove has started to work on product innovation and performance breakthroughs in other sports and industries, and as the company has grown she has moved increasingly into management. She said: “I do more management than I do than hands-on engineering, so it can be a bit dull, but that’s a consequence of growing so much. Am I happy that we’re growing and successful? Yes! So I can’t complain too much.”
Hargrove also discussed the rewarding nature of working in engineering and balancing working life with having children. She said: “I should put in my CV – ‘I had kids’. If you want to have kids and you want to work – you can do it.”
Hargrove’s passion for her work shone through the talk, and she left the audience with an important message about inspiring the next generation of female engineers. She said: “I’m encouraged when I’m in a room full of (female) engineers. I think we all need to keep promoting STEM in schools – all of you need to go back to your schools on a regular basis and keep promoting it. That’s the only way we can improve.”
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