Women in Engineering: A Female PhD Student’s Perspective

It does not require much effort to see that engineering is a male-dominated field and women representation in STEM, while growing, remains low. Depending on university and country, only around a quarter of engineering graduates are female.

But Shams is one of them.

Shams, from Egypt, is currently pursuing a PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. Her PhD project is about leveraging the power of linked data to tackle the interoperability challenges of Mobility as a Service (MaaS). When asked about her background and reasoning for pursuing civil engineering, this was her response.

“As I grew up, I was treated equally to my brothers. I never saw a difference between the intellectual abilities of a male and a female. I was always fond of working on and managing projects, team environments, and leading people. Project management in civil engineering was a major attraction to the field.”

Sham’s also explained that did not face any challenges on the academic side and was treated fairly by her course mates and lecturers. However, she did mention that she faced some major challenges when she got into the industry.

“During my first interview for industrial training, I was faced with a 70-year-old CEO who was completely against females being in civil engineering. It is also very common that females might face trouble working on site. They must be comfortable in an environment full of males as in most of my internships, there were hardly any female engineers.”

However, she adds that there is nothing that should scare young girls off civil engineering and that if they are fond and passionate about the field, they will find a way to stand out. But just like any industry, there will be some sort of discrimination to be faced. It is important to preserve, keep working hard and be a team player.

Regarding her future, she says,

“I am an entrepreneur at heart. I have not set a concrete plan yet, but I now know what I enjoy in the field and that I specifically love working with transportation networks.”

Written and photographed by Shaun Yeoh Kuo Chien