Photoshoot with Chris Brock for the UKRC

Last year I was lucky enough to be chosen to take part in the Ingenious Women project run by the UKRC.

The UKRC is an organisation providing support and advice for women in science, engineering, technology and the built environment. The organisation also works with a variety of other organisations to promote gender equality.

The Ingenious Women project was developed to raise the profile of female engineers as only 8% of British engineers are female. You can read my posts about the project by clicking on the Ingenious Women category on the blog.

As part of the project photographer Chris Brock came to work to do a photoshoot.

Chris and his assistant were lovely and put me totally at ease. He told a few stories about the different people he has worked with before to help me relax – apparently even models and sports people can have bad photos!

I love taking pictures but hate having my photo taken, I generally have a lopsided face or lazy eye ruining photographs of me! And then there’s the difficulty of what to do with my hands – J always takes the mickey because apparently when a camera is pointed at me I look like a penguin with my hands at my sides. Luckily Chris is experienced enough to deal with bad subjects!

By the end of the session I was struggling to raise a smile, I now know why models pout! Still it was a fun half hour 🙂

My favourites are below & the rest are on flickr.

Photo Credit: Chris Brock

Photo Credit: Chris Brock

Photo Credit: Chris Brock

His blog post about the project shows a few of the shots of some of the other women involved. Thank you to the UKRC for organising it and to Chris for getting involved.


The Hidden Science Map

The Hidden Science Map is an initiative by The Science Council to show how much science, engineering and maths goes on around the country.

It’s a really interesting way to search for someone in a specific geographical area or a particular field of expertise, and is aimed at anyone and everyone remotely interested in the science happening around them.

This is a new project that will make a great careers tool as the search can be filtered. You can find out what careers make use of Chemistry for example, or what careers have the best work/life balance.

The website and more information can be found here:

Have a play and see if you can find me!

Photo by Chris Brock for the UKRC

Ingenious Women: Official End Is Only The Beginning

Wednesday was the official end to the Ingenious Women project that I have been lucky enough to be involved with.

It was a great day, I love meeting up with the other girls involved as we have quickly formed some strong bonds.

We spent most of the time each doing a short presentation about what we have learnt from the project, what our high points were and how we are going to carry on in the future.  It was amazing to hear all the inspiration and confidence that we had each gained from each other and the mentors. We also heard from a few of the media mentors and other people connected in someway to the media/science/engineering.

It was particular interesting to hear from Jean Venables who was named the most in a survey where one of the questions was to name a female engineer. Times have changed a fair bit since she was a trailblazer in civil engineering but unfortunately some of her stories were all too familiar to women in the room.

Afterwards most of us retired to a cocktail bar to make the most of happy hour – mmmmmmm cocktails! (I recommend having a Pure Lust in Jewels bar near Piccadilly Circus….strawberries and cream mmmmmmmmm) As quite often happens over a drink we came up with a plan for world domination – well not quite, but we are all committed to carrying on raising the profile of women in engineering and hopefully we have a few plans in the pipeline to help us do this. Keep your eye out as I’m sure we’ll need some help with them!

I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone involved with the project from The UKRC to the Royal Academy of Engineering, the mentors, the mentees and the great people who took the training sessions. THANK YOU ALL!

And to finish, my answers (probably better than in my presentation as I can’t forget bits this time ;)) are summarised below:

What were the high points of the project?

– forming an invaluable network with the other women engineers [I’ve never really felt the need before and I do work with a couple of female engineers but it’s amazing, it really does make a difference knowing that I’ve got people I can ask certain questions that don’t occur to men!]

– the training sessions

– having a couple of girls contact me through twitter and facebook to ask about getting into F1 and engineering. That’s what it’s all about!

What did you learn?

– social media isn’t just for fun! [It can be a valuable tool so to celebrate that I’ve got a work related photo on twitter – it probably won’t last as I would rather not have the team I work for quite so clearly advertised 😉 ]

– second life isn’t just a game, it has benefits for meetings and conferences etc too.

– talk slowly when doing presentations and don’t be afraid to pause!

– don’t need to use jargon as its more important to get across enthusiasm for the topic

How will you continue communicating a passion for engineering (or something similar!)

– do more as a STEM ambassador, particularly careers events

– write a post about how to become an engineer with hints/tips to have an easy resource to pass on

– possibly get involved in mentoring after a request for advice from one of the other engineers who is a mentor

– keep flying the flag for girls in marshalling as well as engineering

– keep the Ingenious Women group going and possibly collaborate on more projects (one engineer is considering putting together a careers DVD for example).

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day and the 100th women’s day at that. I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise it existed until fairly recently but I’m glad it does. I’m also glad to see the coverage on twitter and in the news, as well as all the events being held to raise awareness.

Now this leaves me in two minds. One, why do we need a women’s day? I know this argument is used every valentines, mothers and fathers day (but usually by people against the commercialism of those days), but why do we need a day to celebrate women? I am involved at the moment in activities to promote women in engineering, and get asked the same question about that.

Firstly with regards to the day – I think it’s important to remember that although British women (and those in most developed countries) do not face anywhere near the same challenges that they would have faced 100 years ago; we still do not have equality. And there are an awful lot of women in less developed cultures that face the same thing in 2011 that our relatives did, which is very scary. They face the kind of danger we fortunately don’t.

Secondly, with the Ingenious Women meeting tomorrow, for me an important statistic is that only 9% of people in a STEM (science, technology, engineering or maths) related career in the UK are women. So that definitely needs some work to help encourage women into these areas. And I know what you are thinking at the back, that’s because women aren’t interested in these areas – well that’s just not true. At the marshal training I went to on Saturday women were outnumbered but I would have said about a quarter of the people there were women. And judging by the queues for the ladies at the British GP there’s plenty more out there!

To celebrate international women’s day I thought I would share with you some topical articles that I have read recently.

ESPN have featured a profile about a female racing driver on their website to mark today – Helle Nice.  I’ve never heard of her but she sounds like an even more risqué version of Danica Patrick!

James Allen discussed women drivers in F1 recently –

In a male dominated sport such as Formula 1 it is interesting to hear Bernie Ecclestone say his successor will be female. This link looks at who that might be.

Kate from recently sent me this link about research into how females learn at school, which makes me really glad to be involved in promoting STEM to a wider audience. It really enforces why this is all so important to me.

I look forward to the day when it’s not worthy of a news story for these kind of achievements, for when it is the norm. Until then, every March 8th, I will be celebrating women all over the world.

Can you spare a couple of minutes?

To fill in a quick questionnaire for the UKRC?

Can you name a female engineer? This is for engineers and non-engineers alike, to try and get a gauge of the public’s perception.


The results will be published next year, so there’s plenty of time to fill it in. Please pass on the link too! Thank you 🙂


Ingenious Women November Training Sessions – Day 2

The second day started off with a bit of a regroup and a reminder about Second Life. Now this is something I intend to try for this project but I am a bit skeptical about it. I like The Sims so I can see the enjoyment aspect and I can also see the business benefits of people all over the globe able to meet in various situations such as the conference rooms. But I think there is a lot of scope for it to go wrong that could let down the whole idea if it’s not done well. I’ll see when I’ve had a go!

The day then really got started with a fun workshop that got us all talking from our diaphragms, throwing claps around a room and breathing from our toes!! It was all aimed at small exercises that help to prepare us for presentations but actually I think will prove to be very useful in everyday life.

Throwing claps around the room helped us to focus, to learn to use the whole room and use energy to direct our message. We held simple conversations to someone who was having another conversation to enable us to block out other distractions and get our message across. We did relaxation techniques to focus the mind, relax and calm nerves. We practiced breathing and talking from our diaphragms, although I’m not sure I actually managed to do that!

We put all this into practice by doing a 2 minute presentation on something that really excited us. I bet you can’t guess what my topic was….

…no not Kimi Raikkonen but Take That reforming! haha! I got really into it at one point doing the ‘talk to the hand cos the face ain’t listening’ hand gesture about Gary Barlow and Take That as a four piece! (*oh dear*). Unfortunately for me we were filmed so we could watch it back and see exactly what we were doing, both right and wrong! That was an experience that takes a bit of getting used to…I don’t really even look in a mirror on a morning let alone watch myself talk for a couple of minutes! Anyway it proved really interesting and invaluable as it meant we could get feedback from the group and see exactly what they saw, rather than thinking how it went from my perspective.

After getting the feedback it was then time to do another 2 minute presentation, this time on a work related subject. I tried to take on board what we had done the day before and introduce myself and my job in an exciting (but truthful!) way. Watching it back I don’t half talk quickly when I’m trying to portray enthusiasm! I think that’s something I do naturally when excited as I get a lot of blank looks off some of my work colleagues when I’m rambling on about minis or Kimi or Take That, so I need to take a few breaths and slow down.

Presenting wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, mainly because we’d spent the two days talking in front of each other, and it seemed almost natural by this point. Perhaps for the future to feel comfortable stood in front of people, all it will take is practise practise practise!


The most surprising thing I learnt from day 1 was that in interviews you are not there to answer questions but to get your point across. From day 2 I think it was that you don’t need to be serious in presentations as enthusiasm does not mean that you are unprofessional.

Personally I found the second day the most useful. I can already see how I can use the things we were taught in the workshop and the feedback gained from the experts. Indeed I’ve already used the relaxation technique when being shouted at by a very rude man!

Ingenious Women November Training Session – Day 1

Woo hoo I’ve finally got around to blogging about the two days of training as part of the Ingenious Women project that I attended last week. It has ended up being a lot of writing so I’ve split it into two posts – here’s my thoughts from the first day.

Firstly I’d like to say it was a fantastic event, well organised by the ladies at the UKRC with some great people involved in the training. It was also great to be reunited with most of the women on the project. It’s amazing that I’ve only met them once before but get us all in a room and you would have thought we’d known each other for ages! So thank you to everyone there for making it an excellent couple of days.

So, what did we do?

The first day covered media training, in particular being interviewed for radio or TV. The women who led the training are both seasoned pros and gave us great tips, most of it I wouldn’t have thought about before.

The main thing I learnt was you are not in an interview to answer the questions; you are there to get your point across. Prepare before hand by having three main points you want to get across, with your most important one first in case you run out of time and don’t get to the third!

We did some role play exercises with practice radio and TV interviews and although I thought I prepared enough with my three points, along with my partner we found it impossible to get them in! I was paired with Danielle (read her blog here) to talk about cars. Our three points were British engineering, new media and something else I can’t remember now. When it came to the interview I found it really hard to steer the conversation around to what we wanted to say and only managed to tell a white lie by saying the reason I wanted to be an engineer was because of British engineering!! So pretty unsuccessful but at least it was good to practice.

Another thing I struggled with was putting an interesting spin on explaining my job. Now don’t get me wrong I love my job, but that’s because I’m a geek! And the most important thing to me was not to lie or embellish what I do, after all F1 is so high profile, if I ever do say something in the public domain it’s bound to be seen. But the (very patient it has to be said) ladies pointed out better ways of explaining myself, although it took a few attempts!

Now explaining the day in a nutshell it doesn’t sound a lot but I learnt so much, about communicating what I do & not using jargon, for instance. Lots can be applied across the board not just in TV or radio interviews too. At the end of the day we met a couple more of the mentors who are kindly offering help as part of the project. I was interested to hear from the British Science Association as I didn’t realise how broad their remit is and quite how many events they are involved in.

After that intensive day we went to the hotel the other ladies were staying in. As the sessions were held in York, I went and stayed with parents, but had a meal with everyone else first. The hotel was lovely, with some gorgeous cocktails on offer in the bar! The meal was lovely, unfortunately as we were a big group it proved quite difficult for the waiting staff to bring us all our food at once, which tainted my impression of the hotel slightly. But still the parsnip soup, cottage pie and black forest gateau went down very well!

Day 2 to follow..