As a female engineer in a traditionally male-dominated field, I understand the challenges and triumphs that come with pursuing a career in engineering, writes Miriam Lorenzo – Chief Engineer – Drive System Design.

Throughout my journey, I have come to recognise the immense importance of female mentorship and the need for strong role models in the industry.

Mentorship has had a profound impact on both my own professional growth and that of other women in my team. I truly believe in the power of female mentoring in STEM and engineering, and that it can pave the way for a bright future.

The significance of mentorship

Mentorship has historically played a crucial role in guiding individuals towards success, even when it went unrecognised. Today, many companies have acknowledged mentoring as a key task among employees. However, in the fields of engineering and STEM, the need for female-specific mentorship and role models is more important than ever.

To truly appreciate the impact of female mentorship, it’s important to understand the historical challenges faced by women in engineering. In the past, there was a perception that only a few women could make it to the top. This meant women often saw other women as competitors, rather than people they could support and be supported by.

However, a generational shift has brought about a refreshing change, as women are now supporting women. This shift has paved the way for inclusivity and collaboration, allowing female engineers to progress together and serve as inspiring role models for future generations. Companies  like DSD are recognising the need for an inclusive culture that embraces diversity, but progress is not uniform across sectors and regions.

Challenges faced by women in engineering

In a field which is still male dominated, women often face hurdles that their male counterparts do not. The perception that women lack industry interest or the confidence to represent their ideas can be disheartening. In my experience, this mentality comes from women themselves. A lack of confidence comes from not being exposed to the industry from a young age like many of the male engineers have been,

Personally, I have encountered doubt and a lack of confidence in expressing my thoughts and participating in brainstorming sessions. It is essential to break free from these stereotypes and emphasise the importance of skill sets and diverse perspectives in engineering.

The value of female-specific mentoring programmes

Having strong female mentors who have navigated the challenges of a male-dominated field is invaluable. Female-specific mentorship frameworks provide tailored support, addressing the unique obstacles that women face. I am currently working on this in my role at Drive System Design (DSD). Recognising the significance of mentorship, DSD offers comprehensive programmes that provide tools, resources, and guidance to mentors and mentees alike.

As a female engineer, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of mentorship. Initially, I doubted myself and felt the need to think twice before putting forward my ideas. However, with the support of my mentor and the nurturing environment at DSD, I began to believe in myself and my technical abilities. My mentor continuously reminded me of my strengths and instilled in me the confidence to present my work and ideas with conviction. Mentorship has been a driving force behind my personal and professional growth, allowing me to thrive in a field that I am passionate about.

Imposter syndrome, a phenomenon where individuals doubt their abilities and fear being exposed as frauds, is something many women in engineering face. This internal struggle can hinder personal growth and limit our contributions to the field. The support and guidance of mentors play a crucial role in addressing imposter syndrome, providing reassurance, and building confidence. It is essential for mentors to drill into us how capable we are and create a safe space where making mistakes is not only allowed but encouraged as a means of learning and growth. Through these initiatives, women are empowered to excel in their careers and shatter glass ceilings.

Elena’s Journey

My favourite example of the power of mentorship is Elena Belenguer, one of the brilliant mechanical engineers on our team.

Elena’s experience as a female engineer in a male-dominated industry provides a glimpse into the transformative power of mentorship. With guidance and support from mentors Elena has managed to quickly build up confidence and believe in herself and her abilities.

Elena has gone on to put together her own technical presentation at IVT exhibition, a global showcase of the components, services and technologies that go into making the next generation of industrial vehicles and improving the associated development, manufacturing and testing processes. This June, Elena took to the stage to deliver a technical presentation discussing how cross platform strategies can improve efficiency when moving towards electrification for off-highway vehicles. The talk will be a valuable opportunity for her to give insight into existing electrification challenges within industry, in addition to DSD’s approach to de-risking, reducing cost and development time in electrified powertrain design.

The mentor’s role extends beyond technical guidance; they instil confidence, remind mentees of their strengths, and create a safe space to make mistakes and learn from them. Elena’s journey showcases the profound impact that mentorship can have on an individual’s professional growth and personal well-being.

Being a role model and inspiring change

Recognising the impact that mentorship has had on my journey, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to be a role model for my female colleagues. By sharing my experiences, responsibilities, and achievements, I strive to inspire and empower other women to pursue careers in engineering and STEM. It is through our collective efforts that we can create a more diverse and inclusive industry, where women can flourish and contribute their unique perspectives and talents.

The significance of female mentorship in engineering and STEM cannot be overstated. By breaking barriers, overcoming imposter syndrome, and fostering an inclusive culture, we create an environment where women can thrive and make meaningful contributions. It is essential for companies and organisations to invest in female-specific mentorship frameworks and support systems that empower women to excel in their careers. Together, let us continue to champion gender equality and inspire future generations of women to pursue their passions fearlessly in engineering and STEM. With female mentoring, we pave the way for a bright and inclusive future in these fields.