Malaysia Campus

Faculty of Engineering Editorial Desk (FEED)

Notts Women in Engineering Afternoon Tea

Wednesday, 12th October

 

So here’s a question. What is an engineer?

Professor O’Malley poses this query to the diverse audience seated in the Great Hall Nottingham Malaysia during the ‘Notts Women in Engineering Afternoon Tea’ event. After eliciting a general murmur from the crowd, she then proceeds to show the results of a google image search on the word ‘engineer’. Not surprisingly the majority of the screen is taken up by pictures of men. As Professor O’Malley advances on to show the google image search results of scientists, physicists and mathematicians, the pictures of women become increasingly scarce.

This shows that it doesn’t even take statistics or numbers to show the existence of a stark gender division in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) fields. One can observe it in their daily lives. Apart from the low numbers of women, the contributions of women in these fields often go unrecognised.

Hence as an effort to raise awareness and celebrate the accomplishment of women in STEM, the Faculty of Engineering Athena SWAN committee, led by Dr. Roselina Arelhi and Women in Nottingham (WiN) led by Prof Sandy Loh  organised the ‘Notts Women in Engineering Afternoon Tea’. Attendees of the event which was hosted on Wednesday, the 12th of October in conjunction with Ada Lovelace Day had the privilege of hearing from the esteemed guest speaker, Prof Emerita Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman.   Besides that, the event also served as a networking session for staff and students as well as a platform to discuss issues regarding women in STEM fields.

The event which was hosted at The Great Hall, gained a diverse set of audience in terms of gender as well as the presence of staff and students from a variety of different faculties and departments. Promptly at 2pm the event kicked off with an opening address by Prof Claire O’Malley. Following that, there was an introduction of the guest speaker, Prof Emerita Datuk  Dr. Mazlan Othman before inviting her on stage to give her presentation.

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Prof Emerita Datuk Dr Mazlan giving her presentation

Prof Emerita Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman begins her speech by naming a few women role models such as Hillary Clinton, Ameenah Gurib and last but not least her very own role model, Prof Louise Richardson, the first female Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. Later on in her speech, Prof Emerita Datuk Dr Mazlan shows the audience some figures illustrating the lack of women in STEM. She stresses the importance of overcoming this issue by creating an enabling environment so women can stay on in STEM related careers especially engineering. Not only that, there is also a lack of women in leadership roles in STEM fields. She highlights presence of the glass ceiling and glass wall, which inhibits the progression of women’s careers. She held the attention of the audience by relating her own personal experiences from the times when she was Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs followed by Deputy Director of United Nations Office in Vienna as well as when she was working with the Prime Minister of Malaysia. In her speech, Prof Emerita Datuk Dr Mazlan did not forget to remind women that they should not expect things to be just handed over to them and they must instead work hard to achieve what they want.

To wrap up the event, Dr Geetha Baskaran from the Faculty of Science gave a brief presentation on the biography of her role model, Ada Lovelace. Not many people are aware that the first computer programmer was a woman from the 18th century back in a time when computers didn’t even exist. That woman was Ada Lovelace. This goes to show that the contributions of women in STEM is vast and therefore we should work towards solving the huge gap between the number of men and women in STEM fields as the potential contribution of women in the development of these fields is significant.

After the closing ceremony of the event, refreshments were served. During tea, the staff as well as students had the opportunity to network and discuss amongst each other and with the guest speaker, Prof Emerita Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman regarding issues surrounding women in STEM fields.

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From left Dr Nafizah Khan, Dr Lau Phei Li, Prof Emerita Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman, Prof Claire O’Malley, and Prof Sandy Loh

Overall the event was a success and achieved its objective at highlighting role models of women in STEM, raising awareness and having people openly discuss about women in engineering. Below are some thoughts from attendees at the event.

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“A great event on the continuous need for raising and highlighting excellent role models for young women everywhere”.

-Noorulain Iftikhar, Chemical Engineering student

 

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“Prior to this event, I never really realised that the under-involvement of women in engineering is an issue. Now I understand the difficulties and the barriers that women have to break especially since this is a male-dominated field.”

-Aiman Affandi, Mechatronic Engineering student

 

To sum it all up, the organisers of this event and we from FEED would like to urge our readers to address the gender divide in STEM fields as well as to change our perceptions and attitudes. We need to discuss these issues more openly and widely to encourage more women to dive into STEM careers as they are no less or capable than men.

 

FEED Journalist: Nayantara Soni

FEED Photographers: Sadaf Hemmati & Vera Tanzil

 

 

 

 

by on Wednesday, 19 October 2016
Filed under Faculty News tagged with , , , , , ,

About the Author, Nayantara Soni

Avid reader, experimental baker and hopefully a lifelong learner!

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