Meet our Head of Engineering Samantha Fay and find out what BOC is doing to raise the bar for women in engineering.

23rdJune marks International Women in Engineering Day, an annual event aimed at celebrating women working within the sector and encouraging more young women to consider engineering as a career option.

Currently, women make up less than 11% of the engineering workforce industry-wide, and with large skills gaps looming it has never been more important for the sector to encourage inclusion and diversity.

That’s why this year’s event has the theme ‘raising the bar’– to encourage companies to show what they’re doing to pursue diversity within engineering.

BOC’s Head of Engineering Samantha Fay talks about the challenges facing women in engineering and what advice she’d offer anyone looking to embark on an engineering career…

Q&A with Head of Engineering Samantha Fay

Samantha has over 20 years’ experience in engineering having worked in a series of roles both in the UK and Australia at the likes of BT, Energex and Brightside. She joined BOC in 2016 as the Head of Project Management Office, charged with managing the definition of strategy and management of strategic projects, and was named Head of Engineering in April 2018.

In her current role Sam manages the engineering department and also sits as part of the executive leadership team.

What attracted you to a career in engineering?

I studied engineering at Leeds University and the process-driven, structured way of thinking really suited me. A career in engineering brings the opportunity to do so many different things and take your development in so many different directions – you can use your core skillset in so many ways.

What do you enjoy most about working in engineering?

Engineering’s at the heart of what BOC does – my team is involved in everything from directly delivering services to customers to solving business problems. There’s never a dull day – there’s always something different to do.

I also love that you can see a tangible outcome from your work, whether it’s a new piece of plant or a solution for a customer. You can say “I did that”.

What do you think the main challenges are for women working in the sector?

I think the challenges are all around perception, whether that’s women’s perceptions of the types of role available within engineering or the perceptions that the ‘traditional’ engineering industry has of women coming into the area.

Engineering can be a very accessible area for women, but it’s individual perceptions that can hold people back. The challenges have reduced compared to 20 years ago, there’s more flexible working opportunities etc, but there remains an incorrect perception of what being an engineer actually means. Too often people think of an engineer as a mechanic and don’t understand the scope of roles that are available.

Why you think events like International Women in Engineering Day are so important?

It’s so important to encourage diversity across all industries – it brings a real richness of thinking and capabilities.

We need to know what challenges sectors face if we’re going to overcome them. Events like this can really address the perception challenge around engineering and show the public the reality rather than just the stereotype – hopefully inspiring more women, and young people in general, to consider it as a future career option.

It also encourages businesses to keep the topic front of mind and makes them accountable for actually thinking about how to improve diversity.

How do you think BOC are ‘raising the bar’ in the pursuit of diversity in engineering?

At BOC we champion diversity at all levels. We’ve seen more high performing female engineering graduates joining our scheme in recent years and currently women make up around 25% of our intake.

At a higher level we’ve had some visible changes recently with women coming into very senior roles, including myself as Head of Engineering and our Head of Operations. I think having women in these types of position sends a really strong signal, especially in an organisation like BOC which is over 100 years old and by nature has previously been quite male dominated. We want women in these types of position to become the norm.

What would you say to any girls interested in a career in engineering?

What I would say to any young person, who wants to pursue a career in anything, is go and find out more about it. There are lots of people in organisations like BOC who are happy to share their experiences and talk about the realities of their role.

And then, presuming you like the sound of that reality, just go for it. Be brave, be strong and go for what you want.

I’d also recommend people look for different ways into engineering. You don’t necessarily need an engineering degree. There some great alternative routes available like apprenticeships.

For people not currently doing their A-levels, I’d also say it’s definitely a career option people can pursue later in life. People quite often realise they have an ‘engineering mind‘ after they’ve been working for a few years and there are ways to get into engineering-based organisations, if you look for them.

If you’re interested in following in Sam’s footsteps with a career in engineering, take a look at the opportunities we currently have available here at BOC including our graduate programme.

Want to find out more about International Women in Engineering Day? Take a look at the official website.

Find out more about what it’s like working as an engineer at BOC. Read our interview with Graduate Operations Engineer Dinusha Thedchanamoorthy.