Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day, a Principal Naval Architect’s perspective

Marine People

International Women in Engineering Day, this year on the 23rd June 2017, is an annual celebration of the fantastic impact that women make to engineering internationally.  It aims to recognise the women already working in the industry, and showcase the opportunities to future generations.

In support of this important day, Marine People and the IMarEST will be showcasing amazing international female engineers in our weekly blog.  We want to demonstrate the diverse roles available within engineering, the career development opportunities, and provide some insight in to what it is like to be a female engineer in various parts of the world.  We are passionate about showcasing the fabulous opportunities to women in maritime engineering, because we believe it is an exciting, varied and progressive career.

So, let us introduce this weeks featured engineer:

Gillian Gray, Director and Principal Naval Architect at Gray Naval Architecture based in the UK.

  • How long have you been in engineering and what is your role?

It’s now over 20 years since I emerged as a fresh-faced engineering graduate. I qualified as a Naval Architect specialising in small craft engineering. I have spent most of my career working in shipyards, building boats in the UK and abroad. I am now working independently in my own company that I set up to allow me to balance my work and family life. As well as offering consultancy, I design boats from concept through to delivery including the shape of the hull, the structure, arrangement, stability, safety and speed. My job is to satisfy the requirements of the owners, while ensuring that the vessel meets the rules and regulations, but always with an eye on the cost.

  • Why did you become an engineer?

I knew from an early age that I wanted to design, and I enjoyed discovering the world and how things work through the science of physics. However, I was very fortunate to discover naval architecture. It hadn’t occurred to me as a teenager that wherever there was a product or system, that it was somebody’s job to design it. I was lucky enough to visit the university while I was making my career choices where I saw the work of Naval Architects, and I have never looked back.

  • What are the best parts of your role?

The most satisfying part of my job is when all the hard work comes to fruition, and the new boat first touches the water. It’s amazing to think back at the process – often over years – that has led to that point, and all the challenges that have been overcome and problems solved.

  • What challenges have you encountered?

There have been good challenges in getting stuck in to complex engineering problems, and less enjoyable challenges when dealing with difficult personalities. I like to think I’m a reasonable and pragmatic person though, and I’ve found that if you treat people respectfully, you can often unravel the difficulty and find common ground.

  • Why is it important to get more women in to engineering?

There are so many problems still to be solved and women have the talent, imagination, enthusiasm and intelligence to solve them. To utilise these capabilities we need to show young women that they can take their interest in math’s and science to the next level, and that a career in engineering can be fulfilling personally, and rewarding financially.

  • What would you say to girls still in school who are thinking about engineering? How would you encourage them?

Don’t be put off by the stereotypes. There are many fields of engineering, as well as many ways to be an engineer. If wearing overalls and hard hats on site doesn’t suit you, there is academic research. If complex calculations don’t excite you, there is work in developing safety regulations. If you are a great motivator you could consider management, and if you are creative you can develop new products. Besides, why should we let the guys have all the fun?

  • What advice do you have for students just starting out?

Work hard, it will pay off in the long run. Always listen to people with respect. You will come across people with a great deal of experience, and you have the opportunity to learn from them.

For more information on International Women in Engineering Day please visit http://www.inwed.org.uk/