Product Engineering Leader within the A380 Chief Engineers Team at Airbus
Beth wasn’t sure what kind of STEM job she wanted. But after university, doors began to open — and she now plays a key role at the heart of the aeronautical industry. “Don’t let the lack of women working in STEM stop you from entering a fascinating, fast-paced and hugely varied industry”, she says.
Can you describe your role?
As Product Engineering Leader within the A380 Chief Engineers Team at Airbus, I provide technical, business and finance leadership on projects regarding the fuel and landing gear systems of the A380 aircraft.
What do you like best about your job?
Solving problems together. I love that you can achieve so much working as a team.
Were you good at STEM subjects at school?
I particularly enjoyed maths and physics… although I have to admit they weren’t my strongest subjects. A lot of people — women especially — think you have to excel at them to have a STEM career. That’s not how it was in my case.
Did you have any STEM role models growing up?
My dad, grandad and uncles were engineers, so it’s a career I was aware of. When I was young, my dad told me that one of the best engineers he’d ever worked with was a woman. So it never occurred to me that he worked in a ‘male-dominated’ environment.
Were you always interested in a STEM job?
As a young child, I wanted to be an astronaut! My mum managed my expectations and said: ‘What about being a pilot instead?’ From there I became more interested in aircraft. I took mechanical engineering at university because it gave me a broad range of engineering skills, which widened my career choices.
What route did you take into industry?
I did a year’s internship as part of my degree. Through the contacts I made, I was offered the opportunity to apply for a role at Airbus. That was back in 2008.
What’s it like working in an industry where women are in the minority?
It’s never been an issue — and, anyway, I’m desensitised to it. I can be in a meeting all morning before I realise I’m the only woman in the room. It’s true: when you’re the only woman, people do remember your name. That’s a positive. On the other hand, in my first year at university, where I was only one of two women on the course, one of my lecturers belittled me saying: ‘If you need extra help, let me know,’ as though I was incapable of doing the work myself.
How important are female mentors in your industry?
It’s good to know there are women higher up the career ladder because that’s inspiring. It’s really important for everyone in the workplace to have someone relatable that they can look up to, and I’ve certainly found that to be the case at Airbus.
What would your advice be to young women wanting a STEM career?
Get some experience if you can. And find people to talk to within the industry. That’s why it’s important for people like me to engage with the younger generation so they’ll know what options are available to them.
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