When I was in High School I had no idea what engineering was, nobody told me what it was about. I asked my brother what engineering was, "It’s for men, are you willing to go to work with men in desert oil companies?" When I announced I was going to be an engineer to my Mum, she was very happy. My mum supported me, she believed that being an engineer was the right choice for me. The funny thing now is that most of the people that objected to my choice are very proud that I am now an engineer.
How did you first get interested in Engineering?
To be an engineer was a challenge. Society taught me that women work for teaching or were housewives. I asked myself why? Women can do whatever they want. I like to do different things, I’m the first engineer in my family. I feel like being an engineer has given me the opportunity to be equal to men in the same field of work, I believe that we are created with the same bodies and minds.
Do you have any Role Models?
My mum isn’t educated but I see her like a doctor, she is intelligent and clever. She likes everyone to be educated, she lived in a time where women were not allowed to be educated. She is from the generation that it was not allowed, she was always dreaming to be a teacher or doctor but didn’t get the chance to do that. She gives her dream to us, she helped us get high qualifications, supporting us and fights for us. My mum knows everything about my study, she knows my modules names and my exam schedule, she wants me to be successful.
For me it is not difficult to be a woman in engineerng; I believe women can do anything that men can do.
What excites you about engineering?
The field I work in now is very interesting, I work on corrosion prevention.
After I graduate I plan on going back to my country to teach what I learnt from Sheffield to the students there. I want to tell them what I have learnt, it is interesting to work in industry but I want to give my knowledge to other people. In my country they have the point of view that women educated outside Libya are different. The students will get something unique if I teach them.
What is it like in Sheffield?
I found the University of Sheffield respected me as a woman in engineer and I enjoy studying in a multicultural city such as Sheffield. Engineering has given me the opportunity to find myself. Women and men have the same minds but women are only physically weaker, women have the same mind.
Sheffield University helped me improve and develop my skills to get a highly specialised career as a women engineer. Sheffield University has a lot of training opportunities, to improve our skills by introducing training sessions for free outside the course. We have to catch this opportunity to build our skills and be highly skilled.
What is it like being a woman in engineering?
For me it is not difficult; I believe women can do anything that men can do. In my country there is a culture taught that women cannot do what men do. We have to change this, we have to send them pictures about engineering, about what engineers do.
How do we encourage more women to work and study engineering?
We have to teach people what engineering is, what do engineers do. For High School female students and the public as well, such as parents. If people know what engineering is they can encourage their daughters or sisters to be engineers. Engineering is like being a doctor, or a teacher. You can save the world from any disaster, from any problems that need solving. What doctors solve for human bodies, we can solve the problems in industry. To be an engineer is a good chance to be involved in fields that are dominated by men such as industrial and manufacturing fields. You can work anywhere, at universities or in industry. The job opportunities are good.
In my country there is a culture taught that women cannot do what men do, we have to change this.
Dr Xinshan Li
Lecturer, Mechanical Engineering
Dr Amy Gandy
Lecturer in Nuclear Engineering, Department of Materials Science & Engineering
PhD student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Sheffield
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