When I started reading about Imperial’s Charity Insights scheme, I knew it was something I would like to get involved in- a chance to experience the office life while doing something (hopefully!) of value. I reached out to WES in the hope of getting some insight into that age-old problem which plagues many of us here- the famous “where are all the girls” enigma. At the same time I wanted to contribute in some way to reducing the barriers faced by women in STEM fields.
WES was set up in 1919 to help the women who had flooded into engineering roles during the war, but faced strong social pressure to give up their jobs once it was over. In the century that has passed since those days, the charity has evolved into an organisation focused on supporting women at all stages of their engineering careers: from secondary school girls who feel discouraged from taking science subjects, to professionals struggling to progress in their company, and all those in between.
One thing I was really happy about in the run-up to starting my internship was the amount of freedom I was given to choose my project. As a maths student, I felt I could be most helpful in data analysis related work, which would give me a chance to apply my statistics knowledge- what there is of it- and improve my programming skills. I met up with the WES CEO a couple of times and we decided that I would analyse the charity’s partner companies to determine their current level of gender diversity, and from this work out the best strategies for businesses hoping to attract and retain more women engineers.
In the first week I have been doing a lot of research about how companies operate, and have even begun to understand some of the strange business jargon! I have been surprised to learn how positive an effect diversity can have on a company’s results, and how many are now committed to improving. All in all, the work has been really interesting. On the first day, I sat in on the monthly staff meeting, which was the first time I had seen how a team functions effectively in the workplace and how employees’ different skills are brought together. The staff have been really kind, friendly and fun, and have in fact given me a lot of life advice, particularly on one day when I mentioned I was feeling clueless about what I wanted to do in the future.
Overall, I’m glad I have been given this opportunity because I’ve learned so much in just a short time. I have a long break until I return to WES now, since we have to wait for companies to get together the data we have asked them for. After this week, I’m really looking forward to coming back in September, and not just because of the unlimited free coffee.