The panel discussion included female engineers from Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One® Team (AMF1 Team), Aston Martin Lagonda and beyond to discuss their careers and promote the importance of diversity within motorsport and adjacent industries, offering invaluable and inspiring advice on the opportunities and barriers faced by women in engineering.
International Women in Engineering Day, celebrated on 23 June 2023, is a global event marks the amazing work that female engineers do around the world – generating awareness to inspire and encourage women and girls to explore engineering careers.
The event was hosted by presenter Amber Jones at our state-of-the-art new AMR Technology Campus. The panel comprised AMF1 Team Lead Brake Duct Engineer Sosanna Ní Dhubháin, former Olympian and IndyCar data engineer Nicci Daly, AMF1 Team Product Manager Sioned Edwards, former AMF1 Team Head of Race Strategy Bernadette Collins, AMF1 Team Aerodynamics Undergraduate Placement Student Keira Byrne and Aston Martin Lagonda Programme Leader Anna Iwanska.
The panel shone a light on the importance of self-belief and motivation in engineering, as Sosanna began by saying: "I studied design engineering, did a masters in motorsport engineering at Cranfield. I was lucky enough, I have to stop saying lucky enough, I worked hard enough to get my first job out of university as a junior composite designer and moved onto this team and it feels like I've been here forever.
"If you get over that imposter syndrome and just get on with it, people respect you more. Even if they probably already respect you, it's in your own mind."
AMF1 Product Manager Sioned, who completed a science masters' degree at the University of Southampton but decided to enter the field of business consultancy, added: "A lot of females don't have the confidence to try and ask. I got my job here because I asked what a lot of people wouldn’t have thought to ask. It took a lot of determination to ask. Now I've got a career in what I love. Be brave, have confidence in your ability and be brave to use that. Ask. The worst thing they can say is no. Then you pivot and do something else."
Our former Head of Race Strategy, Bernie, who is now a presenter and expert for Sky Sports F1, explained how not every path to engineering will be the same – and why it's so important to instil confidence within all members of staff.
"I bring engineering to the forefront for the people watching the sport, embracing the knowledge and trying to bring a bit of that to people who watch Formula One on a Sunday. It's been a good new-found career.
"It sort of happened like many of my career moves – by accident – and I wanted a break from the 23 races, the relentless cycle that people like Susie take on. It's weird because I’m still in F1 so I know a lot of the engineering team. It doesn't feel like a brand-new company. It's been quite a smooth transition so far."
She added: “Everyone's got an example of sitting in a meeting and feeling unsure about speaking up but it's about trying to give everyone equal opportunities. There are lots of different things you can do for any young engineer – male or female – in order to encourage their confidence. It's just about allowing people to grow with their own confidence and giving everyone the same opportunity that we would allow ourselves."
Nicci, who comes from a racing family, also shared her unorthodox way into engineering having raced in junior series before studying Mechanical Engineering and a masters degree at Cranfield University. She also played field hockey at international level and worked as an engineer within IndyCar.
“I'm a former Olympian, that's sort of my main journey, but also I came from a motorsport background and loved it from a very young age. I studied mechanical engineering at Cranfield and did the motorsport course there, worked as a data engineer for an IndyCar team in the States. And it was really during my time working and studying in the sport that I noticed a disappointing lack of females on and off the track… so I founded Formula Female, an organisation dedicated to creating programmes in schools that give girls an opportunity to step into the different roles in motorsport and see the different career paths and have the opportunity to get involved in the sport."
Nicci also touched upon the importance of acceptance within a professional environment.
"Working in the team in America, [and] going to Cranfield, I was the only female engineer in my class, in the team as well. You go in there thinking 'Am I good enough? Should I be here? Will they accept me as an engineer, or will they look at me differently?'
"Being in a safe environment, being able to express yourself regardless of your gender or sexuality or ability, it doesn't stop you from performing. You need to feel that the environment is safe to be yourself and express yourself."
For Anna, who didn't pursue engineering but works as a programme leader at Aston Martin, she said that she was surprised to learn that the barriers she assumed she would face weren't as insurmountable as once thought.
"In sessions with mostly male engineers, the first barrier I had to pass was to speak up in front of [my male colleagues] and say what I was going to say. The first shock for me was that they were actually listening to me and they wanted to see that I had something to say. Not necessarily to always agree with me. But, in a brainstorming session my voice was heard. That was very encouraging for me."
Keira has just begun her undergraduate placement scheme at AMF1 Team and she explained how she got here.
"When it came to applications I applied here – still not knowing completely what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to work in F1 but then I got here and got into aero performance and then I knew that's exactly what I wanted to do. I haven't been here that long but I think I've learned a lot and it's been a great experience so far."
As part of our Make A Mark ESG programme, we're passionate about driving diversity, equality and inclusion in motorpsort and beyond. By inspiring women and girls to pursue engineering careers, the women who led our panel to celebrate INWED continued the positive momentum and showed just how wide-ranging and accessible engineering can be.
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