Annual Campbell Lecture: The Invention of Career

Last week, I visited Southampton University to give WiSET’s Annual Campbell Lecture, alongside Professor Jane Francis, director of the British Antarctic Survey. I was asked to talk about my career, which initially was a bit of an alarming prospect because my career is hardly what one could call a shining example of how to run your professional life. The more I thought about it, though, the more I felt that my story was a very relevant one for today’s students and graduates because it’s one of uncertainty, dead-ends, and making things up as I go along. It’s worked out well in the end, but it’s been a rather circuitous route to get here.

In the talk, I chose to discuss the two ways in which we invent our own careers: by creating polished stories about our careers that gloss over the difficult bits, and by actually inventing new jobs that didn’t exist before. The stories that we surround ourselves with — the ones we hear about others, the ones that we tell others about ourselves, and the ones we tell ourselves about our capabilities — are important because they shape how we think about the world, how we understand our place in it, and how we imagine our future. And the way in which we imagine the future directly shapes our actions in the present, because you cannot plan for a future that you cannot imagine.

And with technology remaking entire industries, destroying some jobs and creating others, the ability to recognise opportunities and create new roles for oneself is a skill too valuable to be left to chance. We need to learn how to take our skills and apply them in inventive ways that allow us to spot and exploit opportunities that didn’t exist before.

The talk is about 45 minutes long, and I hope you enjoy it!

National Women in Engineering Day (NWED)

 Guest post by Amina Khalid, NWED Coordinator


23 June 2015

National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) will take place on the 23rd of June this year and will be celebrated across the UK to help inspire the next generation of female engineers.

Last year, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) launched NWED to celebrate their 95th anniversary, and as a way of encouraging external organisations and establishments to promote engineering among girls. By uniting thousands of people on NWED, WES aims to bridge the gap between women and engineering, encouraging more girls across the UK to consider engineering as a serious profession.

Over 250 schools and 100 organisations around the UK celebrated NWED last year by hosting their own engineering-related activities and events. The day provides the perfect opportunity to directly dispel gender barriers while promoting diversity and equality in engineering among young people. This is achieved by encouraging as many people, establishments and organisations as possible to host their own engineering-related events and activities in order to reveal the true, exciting and diverse identity of engineering.  After the success of last year’s event, WES are looking to make NWED bigger and better this year and hope to encourage a lot more people and organisations to get involved and help promote engineering to more young women. 

WES’s strong support for women engineers is backed by its rich history dating back to the first war. 95 years ago in post-World War I Britain, a group of female pioneers led by Lady Parsons campaigned against the government to allow women to remain in the workforce and uphold the roles of engineers and technicians that they had once adopted during the war. These women not only challenged the traditional majority view, but they laid the foundations for gender equality and diversity within engineering. They were not content with the government’s decision to pressure women to step down after the war, during which they had played a major role in the running of affairs. This double standard of only allowing women to embrace highly professional job roles during the war prompted the rise and establishment of the Women’s Engineering Society by Lady Parsons.

WES not only campaigned to allow women to keep their jobs as engineers, but also became a driving force in encouraging and supporting women in this industry. Fast forward to the 21st century and we would expect engineering to be the epitome of gender diversity and equality in the UK after the endless struggles and campaigns of early female engineers. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and WES continues to support and encourage more girls and women into engineering.

Although women are not faced with the same legal pressures preventing them from becoming engineers, the shortage of female engineers suggests that alternative pressures, such as stereotyping and societal expectations, mean that engineering is still perceived as a male career. Britain may have been the birth ground of female engineering pioneers and activists, but current statistics shockingly reveal that the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe at just 7 percent.

Not only is engineering typically connected to a specific gender, but young people commonly associate engineering with construction sites and hard hats. Although construction-based engineering, aka civil engineering, is respectable in its own right, engineering as a whole should not be defined by this single discipline. Engineering is a vast profession that contains countless exciting and interesting opportunities that many young people, especially girls, are oblivious to. So what can be done to encourage more girls to consider engineering as a serious career?

Follow in the footsteps of early WES pioneers and get involved in raising the profile of women engineers this year. It’s simple but extremely rewarding to get involved in NWED and dispel the negative stereotypes associated with engineering. Not only will you be standing in solidarity with thousands across the country, but you will change British history by contributing to the increase in female engineers! To show your support for NWED, all you need to do is host an engineering-related event or activity and publicise it, using social media (using the #NWED hashtag) and mainstream media. The event could be a short careers workshop about the engineering profession or a talk inviting a local female engineer to speak to young people about rewarding opportunities within engineering. The main thing to remember is that you want the public to be aware that engineering is a diverse and exciting profession suitable for everyone!

Get Involved in NWED

Get involved in NWED 2015

Don’t forget to let us know what you plan to do for NWED 2015 by filling in our Event Notification Form.

For more information on how to get involved for NWED 2015, visit our website and request a free resource pack.

Ada Lovelace Day to be sponsored by ARM again

ARM logoWe’re very excited to announce that Ada Lovelace Day will once again be sponsored by ARM! Not only that, but they have agreed to be the official ambassador to Ada Lovelace Day for the semiconductor industry on a long term basis.

As one of our major sponsors, ARM are supporting the development and delivery of a new educational resource pack for use in schools worldwide (about which more soon!). They will also be helping us to inspire girls and young women to engage in STEM subjects through another project that we’ll announce later in the year. We will be working closely with ARM to help us to spread the word about women in STEM and inspire the next generation of female scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.

“Ada Lovelace Day provides an excellent opportunity to inform and encourage women and girls to pursue and explore careers in STEM subjects,” said Jenny Duvalier, executive vice president, people, ARM. ”Our partnership will raise awareness that a career in engineering is an exciting and well-rewarded option for women as well as help elevate the profile this inspiring organisation and celebration globally. We are positive that this long-term partnership will provide engagement for women to kick-start their careers and become successful engineers of the future. Being headquartered in Cambridge where Ada’s seminal work on the Difference Engine took place, adds an additional resonance to our partnership.”

“I’m thrilled to have ARM as a key partner in Ada Lovelace Day, supporting our rapidly expanding efforts to inspire and support women in STEM around the world,” said Suw Charman-Anderson, founder, Ada Lovelace Day. “We look forward to collaborating with ARM to develop educational resources that will inspire the next generation of girls to consider science, technology, engineering or maths as a future career.”

ARM is the world’s leading supplier of semiconductor intellectual property. They design and develop energy efficient processors and technologies for a range of different applications and they very generously supported Ada Lovelace Day Live! 2014. We are pleased to welcome them back!

Conway Hall confirmed as venue for ALD Live! 2015

I’m pleased to say that the venue for this year’s Ada Lovelace Day Live! event has now been confirmed! We will be holding our annual science cabaret at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London on the evening of 13 October.

Conway Hall is owned by Conway Hall Ethical Society and was first opened in 1929. The name was chosen in honour of Moncure Daniel Conway (1832 – 1907), anti-slavery advocate, out-spoken supporter of free thought and biographer of Thomas Paine.

The Hall now hosts a wide variety of lectures, classes, performances, community and social events. It is renowned as a hub for free speech and independent thought.

Conway Hall has a fantastic track record of hosting not just free speech, humanist and political events, but also tech events and, as such, their remit fits in very well with the work we’re doing here at Ada Lovelace Day.

“We are incredibly proud to be in a position to be one of the many splendid sponsors of this year’s Ada Lovelace Day,” said Dr. Jim Walsh, Chief Executive Officer of Conway Hall. “As a charity with a long pedigree of rational thought and supporting intellectual human endeavour, Conway Hall Ethical Society naturally aligns to many of the same principles of Ada Lovelace Day. However, as the day itself will no doubt make clear, there is much work to be done to make the future just as interesting!”

Conway Hall has a capacity of 400, and has recently been refurbished, so we are really looking forward to seeing you at this historic venue!

Talks and Debates 1


Foyer 3

It’s still very early in the year for us, so we’ve a lot to organise and will be back in due course with more details of speakers and tickets.

We also still have some sponsorship packages for the event available, so if you’d like to support women in STEM by sponsoring one of the most exciting, enjoyable and educational events in the STEM calendar, please take a look at our prospectus and get in touch!

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

This is a fantastic short film from ESPN about Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who wrote the first compiler and popularised the word ‘bug’ in reference to a computer glitch after finding a moth in the relays of the Harvard Mark 1.

You can also watch her interview with David Letterman: