Polar engineers keep our world running!

23 June, 2023 Diversity in UK Polar Science

For this year’s International Day for Women in Engineering, Elen Jones (Director of the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme) reflects on her experiences after 20 years as an Electrical Engineer in the railway, aerospace and construction industries.

A woman wearing a hat and sunglasses
Elen Jones, Programme Director, Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme

From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be an engineer, but it didn’t necessarily start out in the best way when I decided that I wanted to do Motor Mechanics as a GCSE subject and was told that “it wasn’t for me”. Thankfully, after some challenging debates, I was able to proceed with my choice and alongside the design and technology subject activities, my passion for engineering developed at pace and I led the school’s involvement in schemes such as Engineering Education Scheme in Wales where I had the opportunity to work on a project for the power industry.

I’d had some awareness that women in engineering were a minority, but this became more apparent when I went to university to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering, where there were only a handful of women amongst the plethora of men taking the course. After choosing to do a sandwich year in industry during my degree, I returned to be the only female in the final two years of my particular scheme!

However, this has not been a hindrance to my ambition. Throughout my education and career, I have been fortunate to find support for my path in engineering including the opportunity to be involved in some fantastic projects and challenges.

Project delivery has been the primary thread during my career. The challenge of defining requirements, dealing with emerging issues, problem-solving and delivering a quality output has been a driving force in my commitment to the field. I take immense pride in every scheme that I have been involved in, including the lessons I’ve learnt and the knowledge I’ve gained. I also have and do seek to use all of this in support of other engineers as they navigate their way and develop their own capability and career path.

Engineering can be a challenging field, no matter who you are. It is also hugely rewarding and I’m proud to be a STEM Ambassador working with and encouraging others to consider engineering as a career path from an early age. There are so many facets to the field, some of which many are not aware of, so it is important to encourage women and girls to be informed of the opportunities that are available.

Engineers keep our world running, and it is hugely important to encourage the next generation(s) to be part of this and continue to make a difference!