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I don't think there are limits to what women in engineering can achieve

19 June 2024

We chatted with three senior engineers about how being a woman in the industry has changed since they started their careers

We chatted with Ila, VP sub-sea operations, Yvette, VP process and process safety, and Anchala, VP wells regions, about how being a woman in the engineering industry has changed since they started their careers.


How has being a woman in engineering changed since you started your careers?


I was the only girl studying advanced maths and physics at school. Around one in 10 in the mechanical engineering school I went to at university were women. And when I started my career in the 1990s, I was usually the only woman offshore. There were multiple little hurdles and barriers I faced, from finding a bathroom that's suitable and lockable and had what you needed, to PPE that fits, to having someone you could talk to if you needed support on anything. Lots of Individual things can add up to make it feel quite lonely."- Ila

When I started 27 years ago, there was a bit of an old boys’ network, which I think was part of the reason why a lot of women would leave. And even things like the flame-retardant clothing was just in men's sizes. It's not just about looks – you do need your safety protective wear to actually fit properly. That’s all changed."- Yvette

We also have tools that enable us to work more flexibly. People can now look at data from their kitchen table so they don't have to be here all the time. And if someone needs to go home, it’s like: sure. I'll speak to you when you get the kids sorted or walk the dog or check in on an older relative. That piece has changed a lot and I think it enables a woman starting out today to say: I have faith that the system will help me." - Anchala

How has engineering improved with more women in the industry?


The diversity of the organization has changed meteorically since I first started. What comes with that is acceptance of how people think. We're able to say: I think we can approach this from a different angle, or maybe let's sit back and listen to the quietest voice in the room. It's not just about being faster, harder, quicker. We talk about being inclusive and I think this company feels a lot more inclusive. It was inclusive before – that's why I joined – but it's even more inclusive than it used to be." - Anchala

The benefit of having diversity in engineering, whether that's with women or people from different backgrounds, different experience or different cultures is that individually, none of us are going to know everything, but collectively, we are really powerful and knowledgeable. I think that diversity of experience, thought and style is really important." - Ila

I think now, younger women feel that they are welcome here and they're more likely to stay longer than the five years, which is what I used to see 27 years ago. In general, having more women in the workforce, especially women leaders, can help create an environment where people feel included and that they can speak up and be listened to." - Yvette

What do you want young women in engineering to know about getting the most out of their careers?


I'd like them to know that this is a welcome place where they can flourish, progress and grow their careers. This company's offered a lot of different opportunities for me over the years." - Yvette


I would say this to anybody – don't be afraid to try and put yourself out there. Opportunities when they come up are to be seized with both hands, and know that not every opportunity is perfect. I’ve had a lot of conversations over my career about timings and whether this will work or how do I balance family life and children, but you don't know until you try. And you might be surprised at the results." - Anchala


I’d say there isn't anything you can't do in your career, but you have to try. You do have to work hard but don’t put limitations on yourself, and don’t let other people put on theirs. Sometimes the worst barriers we face are the ones we put up ourselves. I don't think there are limits to what women in engineering can achieve." -Ila

What do you love about being an engineer at bp?


I've found it possible to combine all the things I love into my career. That includes travel and languages, working with different people in different industries and with new technology. Everything that we touch needs engineers and that means the possibilities are endless. "- Ila

You do get to see some interesting places, but it's more for me about the people you meet. I've found the quality of people that we hire is extraordinary. I learn something from everybody every single day." - Anchala

You can stay in oil and gas or pivot towards new low carbon technologies. The skills needed for someone with a chemical engineering background who works in refineries or in the production field are the same that we need to understand how to safely make, transport and use green hydrogen. It’s a great time to be an engineer, in my opinion."- Yvette

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