Inspiring the next generation of female engineers23 Jun 2021
Today is International Women in Engineering Day, here Eliane Algaard, Operations Director for SSEN's South Distribution Network, offers some advice to the female engineers of tomorrow.
The 23rd June is International Women in Engineering Day – a day close to my heart. Over the years on this day, I have shared my story to help raise awareness of the amazing career opportunities engineering can offer to women. I also try to focus more specifically on the satisfaction of working in industries which deliver massive social and economic benefit to the communities they serve.
In my current role as Operations Director for SSEN’s South Distribution network, I am particularly proud of contributing to building a strong foundation to make a net zero world a reality for our customers and communities.
I chose to study engineering at university partly because a career in science and engineering was seen as a prestigious occupation in France in the 90s. But I chose this direction as much because I thought it seemed a good career choice to solve puzzles for a living – something I always liked to do as a little girl.
I was lucky – unlike the 50,000 girls turning away from an education in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) every year in the UK – I always saw maths and science as accessible. My father, an engineer himself, encouraged my curiosity to understand the world around me.
Despite science and engineering being a desirable and prestigious occupation, throughout my studies both in France and the UK, women were a minority.
Over the last 20 years, critical infrastructure industries like water, rail and electricity have worked hard to attract more women into STEM roles. However, we still represent less than 25% of the workforce.
My advice to any girl who is considering a career in engineering or any other STEM subject is to see her gender as an asset, and to embrace all the experiences which makes her different from her peers. This difference might enable her to approach a technical and management problem from a different angle and find a novel way to solve it.
I would also advise her to work for companies with values like her own, and not to be afraid to put herself forward and take on additional responsibilities and projects. Hard work and positive results always get recognised in a good company. I would also encourage her to embrace change and the opportunities that come with it.
Over the next decade, the UK electricity industry will need to undergo significant structural change to meet the ambitious net zero targets set by the UK and Scottish Governments. Being part of this journey will bring numerous career opportunities and it will also be massively rewarding.
In SSEN Distribution, our Vision is "Powering change through every connection." I believe this vision applies both to our physical assets and our people.
Improving how we work, the systems we use and the processes we follow will be an important part of our journey to net zero. With any change, it is the people who make it happen. Our people are at the heart of us achieving our vision and living our purpose to power communities to thrive today and create a net zero tomorrow. To succeed, we will need to pull on the creativity, agility, and resilience of our talented and diverse team. Attracting more women with STEM skills will boost these qualities. It is also fundamental to keep up with the demand for “clean” energy.