We know the future of engineering starts in the classroom. It’s vital that we continue to engage everybody in STEM subjects and activities from a young age, and build on potential and interest - regardless of gender - to ensure a diverse and ultimately more innovative and more impactful workforce.
During a recent visit to Torriano School in Camden, London, we spent time with the children, talking about our technologies, playing games, and introducing them to three of our women engineers. We answered questions about everything from our robotics to careers in engineering.
At the start of the session, the teacher asked each child to draw and name an engineer so we could find out if they naturally saw engineers as men or women. The results were fantastic, with a well-balanced mix of women and men - some were even self portraits! It was a clear message that, as a whole, the class did not see engineering as an exclusively male field.
“Engineering is not about being strong or lifting heavy stuff - it's all about problem solving... I didn't know what kind of engineer I wanted to be, but I love solving problems and I love improving things.” Sheyda, Process Engineer
“I love to get stuck into a job, I love to use tools, I love to pull things apart, and I love to understand how things work. I do a lot of that in my role.“ Allegra, Controls Engineer
“Sometimes women can be over-prepared but under-confident. It's important to match your competence with confidence. Trust in your brilliance!" Philbeth, OSP Systems Monitor
Allegra is a Controls Engineer at our large Erith CFC in London. Controls Engineer is a senior engineering position at a CFC, with responsibilities that include technical support for faults at the site, including all controls hardware, software, and networks. Controls systems include a wide range of specialist technologies, from the motors that drive our conveyors to the software and logic that controls and coordinates them. Allegra could be walking out onto the Grid in a harness in the morning, and remotely reprogramming a safety PLC in the afternoon. More recently, she has taken a new role and will be helping out at some of our new International CFCs, including in Japan and Australia.
As well as this, Allegra sits on the board of our Women in Engineering group - an employee network looking at both at improving gender diversity and inclusivity in our own business, and contributing to the wider discussion in the engineering community.
Philbeth studied Microbiology at university and joined Ocado Engineering at our Erith CFC (Customer Fulfillment Centre) soon after graduating. She started as part of our Operations Support team in the Inventory department, responsible for pick support. After a year, she wanted something more challenging, so she successfully applied to be a SCADA Technician.
SCADA (Supervisory Controls and Data Acquisition) allows Philbeth to monitor the entire CFC from one position. She is responsible for ensuring that all control systems components are functioning correctly and that, if there's a failure in the system, she can take immediate action and involve the Controls Engineers for fault diagnosis and repair.
Sheyda studied Mechanical Engineering at Queen Mary University in London and then joined the Ocado Graduate Engineering scheme, with placements as an engineer at a CFC, on the continuous improvement team, and in data analytics. She is now on a secondment as a Process Engineer working on technical project management for our new on-grid robotic pick system. She is looking at everything from on-site set-up and commissioning, maintenance management, and more.
We’ve got more to do
In its March 2022 Women in Engineering report [LINK: https://www.engineeringuk.com/research/briefings/women-in-engineering/], EngineeringUK found that, in the UK, women now make up around 16.5 percent of all engineers, compared to the 10.5 percent reported in 2010. There is clearly much more work to be done in this area, but it is encouraging that the numbers are showing a sharp rise - outstripping many other male dominated areas of business and industry.
At Ocado Technology, we’re committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace; a workplace where we embrace, celebrate and value each others’ differences. This is one of the reasons why we innovate and why we continue to push boundaries in technology and engineering. Our employee led diversity groups provide support and community for issues including gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and mental health.
We’d like to thank everybody at Torriano School for making us feel so welcome. We had an inspiring day, encouraged by how engaged the children were with the subject. We had to fit in an extra Q&A session because there were so many great questions. We came away energised and even more determined to make a difference to diversity in engineering.
Change your world with us
At Ocado Technology we are proud of our welcoming culture. We value diversity and difference, and believe it makes us stronger as a whole. Learn more about working at Ocado Technology here.