Contributed by: Dr. Kristen Splinter, Lecturer, UNSW Sydney.
I had the privilege of welcoming 100 female high school students to view my research and to get to know what it was like to be an engineer this past month. The site visit to the Water Research Laboratory (http://www.wrl.unsw.edu.au/news/unsw-women-in-engineering-camp-visit-wrl) was part of the girls’ 5-day intensive introduction to careers in Engineering, hosted by the Faculty of Engineering at UNSW Sydney. While explaining some of my research in the lab, it was great to see some students take a real interest and want to know more about the equipment we were using and the data we were collecting. They also had the opportunity to ask me (one of 3 females that work at WRL) why I chose to be an engineer (and where my accent was from!). To me, this is when it got meaningful and real. I didn’t have a clear path and I sure didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was 16. I was open about this and the girls appreciated that. We put a lot of pressure on the next generation that they need to know their career and life goals early on, but the reality is, many of us likely didn’t either at their age. Each one of my degrees brought me down a path of learning, that led to another path and another degree. I have done both Science and Engineering degrees to get where I am and, if anything, I think they complemented each other and furthered my understanding more than degrees in all the same discipline would have done. But that is my experience.
Similarly, I have found being involved in our university open days a great experience because the females can often be found lining up to talk to me (or my other female colleagues) rather than the males. They want our opinion and are so grateful to see a female they can talk to. We are mentors, sometimes in the smallest ways. I encourage you all to do the same.
More information on the camp can be found here: https://www.engineering.unsw.edu.au/about-us/initiatives/women-in-engineering/outreach/women-in-engineering-camp
If you’ve been part of a similar mentoring event we’d love to hear from you and your experiences!