Aerospace engineering is a great career for women

We’re known for attracting and developing top aerospace engineers, encouraging more women in engineering and supporting a diverse workforce.

To celebrate International Women’s Day one of our top women engineers, Nikita Sinha, shares her enthusiasm for aerospace engineering and what makes it a great career.

Nikita Sinha, Head of Technology Acquisition

There has never been a more exciting time to be a woman in engineering yet I am constantly astounded that so few women seem to appreciate that and go for it.

We have come such a long way, but the challenges of being a woman in engineering, or more specifically aerospace engineering, is not too dissimilar to women in other male dominated professions.

There were no women engineers at the start of the Twentieth Century and only just over five percent by mid-century. The figure is still fewer than 15 per cent in the UK, which means we are lagging behind many other nations, particularly Bulgaria and Cyprus who lead the field with 30 per cent women engineers.

Addressing the balance

In aerospace engineering the figure is a couple of percentage points lower, which is difficult to understand, as I think it’s a great industry to be in. We also need to attract more engineers, as there is already a shortfall and unless we address it that hole will just get deeper.

I always wanted to go into aerospace engineering. I studied Aeronautical Engineering at Punjab Engineering College in India, and worked on some really cool projects investigating and creating neural networks to predict aircraft design performance.

I was very fortunate that I was sponsored by Rolls-Royce to study for my PhD at the University of Southampton, UK.

I began my career in turbine systems engineering, then went into technical and programme delivery of civil large engines, and now I am doing something quite different.

I feel there is a misconception that going into one field limits you to that field, but that’s simply not the case. It’s about thinking out of the box and using what you know to challenge the status quo. For me engineering is about wondering if there is a better way, not just accepting that this way is the only way.

There were only three females on my course, and two of us have veered away from what we originally started doing. I know that one of the things that attracts our apprentices and interns to our training schemes is the breadth of experience they have with us. They get to work on live projects from day one, and are encouraged to chip in their ideas, however left field they may initially think they are.

Be an ideas generator

We see that as added value, as innovation only comes about by giving people the freedom to make suggestions. Obviously, not everything is possible, but if you don’t suggest it then it certainly won’t come about.

For me that would be stifling. I’ve read that the vast majority of women who do go into engineering feel a tremendous sense of achievement and satisfaction. Engineering is also a career that has longevity. People tend to stay and progress – if they want to.

I joined Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group as Head of Engineering Transformation, where part of my role was defining roadmaps for capability development and acquisition to enable the business to cater for future market demands and business needs.

Think big

I’m now Head of Technology Acquisition, working very closely with our Chief Technology Officer, to drive a culture of innovation, identify opportunities for alignment and collaboration with industry, academia and defence leading to new product development.

Perhaps people think that engineering is about turning screws and that aerospace engineering is either making aircraft or maintaining them and maybe that is what puts women off. There is certainly an element of that, but it is so much more and the opportunities are myriad.

We are only limited by our own imaginations, or perhaps the imaginations of the people who are advising our young people about the careers available to them.

I’m delighted to work in a business that actively expects people to come forward with ideas and in a diverse industry with so many opportunities. I hope I can support younger people in exploring what is possible.

I love what I do and would wholeheartedly recommend aerospace engineering to women. We need more engineers, and we’d like a larger proportion to be women.