When people talk about the lack of females in the engineering courses, exaggerated stereotyping is the first thing you would think about. This is until you visit Roehampton Vale’s Campus and speak with Katie Bashford, 20, the only girl in her second-year aerospace engineering, astronautics and space technology course.
“There is obviously a gender divide, it’s a recognised thing that not enough girls study engineering,” said Katie. “There are about 15 people on the course and I am the only girl. There are more girls that are doing the aerospace course but I am the only one doing this kind of course. There is still hardly any girl even in the aerospace bit.”
This ‘male-dominated’ environment doesn’t seem to intimidate Katie at all, who has grown up with a brother and no sister.
“I’ve always got on better with boys anyways. At college I chose A levels that had many males and few females in them so I kind of got used to it. I am not intimidated by them. Most people are a bit reluctant. I don’t find that many problems,” said Katie.
But while most female students tend to choose ‘girly’ courses, Katie has always been interested in anything to do with space. Though, it wasn’t until her electronics class, during her A levels, that she understood she actually love it.
“That was kind of the hands-on side of it and I just really liked that, building stuff rather than just seeing it. Thinking of the new generation of engineers who will be building all the space stuff, the future. It’s a really cut-to-edge field,” Katie said.
She is not worried of getting into the workplace because the new generation should be developed enough to avoid any kind of judgements.
“I just want to be treated as if I am the right candidate for the job. I want to be clever enough and get the job not just because I am a woman,” she said.
Katie doesn’t feel discriminated by her peer students and lecturers who are happy to see that some girls are interested in engineering fields.
“There are a fair number of female lecturers. Not as many as males ones but I think the university has done a very good job in employing females. One of our module leaders is a woman which it’s good,” Katie said.
Are the prejudices that female students have towards engineering courses driven from the reluctance of studying in a male-dominated field or from the simple fear of not succeeding? The reason why female students are generally not that interested in engineering courses are yet to be understood.
“It’s not that there is discrimination or anything like that just that somewhere in education women decide that they are not interested in doing it or they think they can’t do it. Maybe it’s one of those things that when you are younger you just do what your friends want to do,” Katie said.