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Being a woman in engineering: Victoria the F1 Systems Engineer

Victoia Guppy, Formula One Systems Engineer and Dare To Be Different Ambassador

What challenges have you faced in the industry?

I think the biggest challenge for women in the industry is the continual need to prove yourself. It feels like when a man steps into a new role, it is assumed that they can do the job. That is, unless they prove otherwise. Whereas, I have found that walking into a job it is assumed that I cannot do the job. I must prove otherwise.

So many times I have been told things like; ‘you’re actually really good for a woman.’ Part of me feels this attitude has actually made me a better engineer.

This isn’t a compliment. Why should it matter what reproductive parts you possess as long as you can do the job at hand? It’s the immediate assumption that you are not going to be very good. Or that you don’t know what you’re talking about and the condescending attitudes towards you. Part of me feels that this attitude towards me has actually made me a better engineer. Knowing I need to be prepared for difficult questions and people trying to trip you up or catch you out forces you to do your homework. This is because you know that one mistake or undefined comment is going to be jumped upon and used against you. It can be extremely soul-destroying, tiring and sometimes even quite a hostile environment to work in.

Different championships within motorsport certainly have a different outlook on working with women. I feel that it has something to do with the size of the egos.

What about the next generation of engineers?

I want to say that the younger generation are more accepting. This is sometimes the case, but it is also learned behaviours. If mechanics/young engineers see their senior engineer talking to you in a certain way, then they do as well. A change in attitude has to come from the top. I certainly felt more comfortable working within the automotive sector, I think motorsport still has a lot to learn. All I can do is carry on doing my job. Keep on trying to dispel these views and bring people up on bad attitudes. I hope that it will be easier for the next generation of women trying to make it in Motorsport.

What advice would you give for girls focusing on male-dominated careers?

Just focus on what you want and where you want to be. Don’t let what anyone else thinks get in your way or stop you being the best you. Work hard, you will need to be good, use any negativity you get to be better. Don’t be afraid to speak out, the more you let people walk over you, the more they will, they assume that you will be a soft touch. Have a thick skin but don’t loose who you really are.

Sometimes I find myself in day to day life being too harsh and too outspoken and over-confident. I am not naturally that person, but I have to be in my job to be taken seriously. Put trust in yourself and be confident in your abilities and take time to remember how hard you have worked and how far you have come when you find your confidence being dented and keep ploughing on. You’ll get there if you work for it.

Why is it important to challenge the stereotypes of an engineer?

Because when I have children I want them to be able to choose whatever profession they want to do and be accepted into it. There have been a lot of people I have worked with that have taken me on face value and not cared what gender I was, which is how it should be. The trouble is there is also a lot of people that still do not have that view and make life difficult.

I love motorsport and have done since I was a kid, I am extremely passionate about what I do and for the most part enjoy it and don’t want to put young girls off a career in engineering or motorsport, it’s a fantastic career, I’ve got to meet a lot of different people, seen a lot of different places and sometimes have to pinch myself that I am doing my dream job. I just wish I had been a bit more prepared for the challenges I had faced when first trying to make my way in the sport. It won’t be easy, but it is most definitely worth it!

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