What we do
Discover how we support the defence and security of the UK.Discover more
I always had an enquiring mind as a child. My father had a range of interests and I naturally developed a curiosity for them too; cars, trains, aircraft, astronomy and art. He was also an engineer, having trained as a machinist and toolmaker.
After leaving sixth form college with four A Levels, my interest in cars first led me to the motor industry and then to motor sport. However, this was at a time when a woman making a technical career in a perceived ‘men only’ environment was as good as non-existent!
I moved into hands-on scientific research in the dairy industry, and as a mature student began a self-funded part-time degree in physics at University College London. On the strength of my studies alone, I was offered a role at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) – the UKs national measurement standards laboratory - in London, where I spent ten years in various research and measurement areas including engineering metrology and nuclear material physics.
After I was made redundant I applied to AWE and have worked here for five years.
I work with the Warhead Knowledge Team, in Engineering Capability. Using my knowledge of physics and engineering I scope, review, collate, summarise and publish web based products, to ensure that AWE can retain, maintain and develop its capability to deliver warhead systems and maintain Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD). Part of my role also includes delivering tours of the Educational Collection. I have also been provisionally marked for a part-time secondment in metallurgy.
The most enjoyable part of my role is being able to access a very broad base of people and nuclear deterrent knowledge. There aren’t many roles at AWE where you get to acquire such a diverse range of technical information.
The best thing about my job is expressing science and engineering in a creative way. People don’t usually consider science or engineering as being related to anything artistic.
Unfortunately there are still so few females in the STEM industry. Regrettably, gender-stereotyping of girls and boys begins from the moment they are born. Research shows that children left to their own preferences (uninfluenced by adults), will result in them choosing toys or activities they find interesting, and which stimulates their mind and creativity. Gender barriers will only be broken down if children are encouraged in what they find interesting, without the influence of gender-stereotyping. Parents therefore also need to be educated to avoid pushing children into the perceived gender-moulds of ‘girls do this’ and ‘boys do that’.
The advice I would give to women who want a career in STEM would be to “Be yourself”. Don’t let anyone (parents, friends, peers, teachers, etc.) put you off, or try to steer you away from doing anything technical or scientific if that’s what interests you. Peer pressure is at its worst from the ages of 11 to 16, but your career choice is going to be long term, so stick with what YOU enjoy, and DON’T follow the herd!