THE BLOG

Why I'm Going Back to University as a Female Engineer?

10/09/2013 13:21 BST | Updated 06/11/2013 10:12 GMT

Sixteen years after graduating from Brunel University as a Manufacturing/Mechanical engineer, I have decided to pursue a postgraduate engineering degree at the University of Oxford.

When I studied at Brunel in the mid-90s, I was one of 5 females out of about 50 students (and the only ethnic) - highlighting an under representation problem in a male-dominated industry. I remember during the time of my undergraduate study, getting more females into science & engineering wasn't really the focus; it was all about cutting-edge publishing of research & development papers.

I also remember myself as an undergraduate student volunteer; going out to schools, to encourage science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) - although STEMNET didn't exist at the time, but we had the engineering council that would send me out to schools - I enjoyed it!

I faced a lot of challenges, as an ethnic minority female, even lecturers didn't have that much understanding of providing for my needs - in comparison with today, those issues have slightly moved on.

Yes, there's still a lot of old-fashioned gender stereotyping, sexism and prejudice (discrimination) but it has not deterred me from my professional career, even then & now.

How I surpassed all this, was the fact that my late parents are of Nigerian heritage, mum went to boarding in the 1950s (Royal Masonic School), Rickmansworth and father became a Pharmacist in the UK.

"And by Nigerian standard, if you fail to go to university, then it becomes a "taboo" in the culture, especially amongst our Peers, Parents & Family Sphere."

Today, I am delighted that they've instilled those fear (I mean values), which has made me what I'm, strong and continually want to succeed and embrace education.

How far has the British Society grown over a decade ago since I was awarded my engineering degree?

When I left university, I shifted my career into technology - another branch of engineering which is slightly more female orientated and I was one of the first to work on a Bluetooth device at TDK, north London, in 2001.

Though I have been successful in getting onto the postgraduate engineering research study at Oxford; nevertheless this was only because of my previous experience and hard work. However there is still a gender gap and not enough women in STEM, specifically, ethnic minority women.

Therefore prestigious universities, such as, Oxbridge and/or Russell Groups should take the lead in tackling this low representation of women in STEM by attracting more women onto their STEM degrees. Along with better focus on education within the STEM subjects - if more and more girls are choosing STEM in schools & universities we will see an increase of women in the science & engineering workforce and subsequently produce more ethnic minority role models.

UK should be a global leader in innovation through the brilliance and hard work of our scientists, engineers and emerging small business leaders - however we still have a long way to go and work to be done to ensure STEM education is not a barrier to ethnic minority girls.

Even though, I'm qualified, and have vast amount of cooperate industry experience in engineering technology consultancy. There's still so much to learn & influence, especially in the area I work in, for example, driving economic progress and constantly developing new technology concepts.

My passion for supporting & inspiring STEM education produced a social enterprise, non-profit OpenVirtualSTEM - a gaming tool utilized in the classroom to promote the learning of physics, maths and computer science - combined with empowering more children & young people, primarily girls into science & engineering.

Going back to university in spite of my experience counts - an ideal opportunity, but then again, I want to be equally valued the same way as my male colleagues, and become a better role model to the next generation of young engineers - coupled with strengthening my current achievements, throughout my personal professional development.