To mark International Women in Engineering Day, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is hosting a roundtable Q&A to look at the integration of these two worlds and what steps are being taken to boost diversity as these two sectors begin to work more closely with each other. As part of the build-up to the event, we spoke to two of the speakers.
Nerys Edwards works as a digital print technical instructor at the Royal College of Art; in her experience, engineering in the fashion world can still be very male-dominated, but praised events such as the Institution’s panel for helping women progress in the industry.
“Most print engineers and print salesmen are men, yet most of the fashion and textile designers using the bureau are women - this still seems incongruous. I have had odd incidents where I have been frustrated by not being listened to but when this has happened I have been persistent and have trusted my knowledge and experience.
“These events are great because it is important to see female role models in positions you aspire to be in, because otherwise you feel like an interloper. If you just see a load of old white men doing the jobs you want to be doing then you feel like you don’t fit or don’t want to fit in that environment.”
“Seeing you reflected in what is out there proves you can fit in, and that gives you a lot of encouragement and makes you think you can achieve what they have achieved as well,” she added.
Elif Ozden-Yenigun, who is also speaking at the event, says the Q&A will give women a platform for voicing their opinions in a sector that can be difficult for women to get themselves heard in, and knows from personal experience just how important it is to see and hear from inspiring women in industry.
“I have always had an interest in science and engineering, and I decided to study textile engineering after taking inspiration from my mother’s background as a textile designer,” she says. “Women in Engineering events gather women in male dominated fields and enable women to voice their opinions without feeling oppressed. More importantly, they focus on empowering and inspiring young women to participate and be a part in engineering society.
“The more we are talking to each other about this, the stronger will become in these fields.”
Nerys added that the increasing presence of women in engineering can only be beneficial to what the sector is capable of achieving.
“My role in engineering in fashion is at the front line, so I rarely meet engineers but if there was a more diverse workforce of engineers there would be more interaction and creativity between the different parts of the process,” she says. “I recently joined the Royal College of Arts and they are looking at integrating science and engineering into the creative process so they are not separate industries, but actually feed into each other as they are both about problem solving really.
“The creative side of engineering really needs to be shouted about, because creative people don’t understand engineering and the potential it has for the creative process – understanding what is possible is vital. Engineers can really help designers do what they want to do or even do more than they thought they could do, and that is really exciting.”
Elif remarked that at these developments progress, engineers will require further training to make the most of the opportunities available to them.
“Now more than ever, technology and fashion are intertwined, and engineers will require training in different disciplines ranging from materials science to communication design,” she says. “New emerging materials bring high-value innovations to the textile market, and change the face of labour intensive and factory based-production.”
The event will be chaired by Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Engineering at IMechE, the event will open with the launch of a report on ‘Engineering out Fashion Waste’ delivered by lead author Aurelie Hulse. Drinks and canapes will be served on arrival and at the networking session.
Find further information and book tickets.