Women in Engineering: An interview with Samina Khan
Monday 24 June 2019, Benedetta Sala, Samina Khan
Samina is the leader of the Environmental and Social Safeguarding team at IMC Worldwide. She is a Civil Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Samina is passionate about protecting and enhancing the environment, whilst striving to reduce poverty and improve lives through the provision of appropriate infrastructure. For the occasion of Women in Engineering Day (23 June) we chatted briefly about gender representation within the industry and what it takes to break stereotypes and challenges within the world of engineering.
Women are still largely unrepresented in the industry, and few girls decide to undertake studies in engineering. Did you encounter barriers in your early life? What do you think can help girls to pursue more studies in STEM?
Although I did not encounter barriers that prevented me as a woman to study engineering, I do agree that STEM subjects need to be made more appealing to women and girls. Raising awareness of the opportunities that engineering can offer to women is essential. That’s why we need ambassadors for STEM to encourage more participation. I have been and I still am a vocal STEM ambassador through various networks and schools, including the Institution of Civil Engineers.
According to ICE, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, at less than 10%. How do you feel about it?
Throughout my career, I had become used to realising that when I was sitting in a meeting room, I was often the only woman and the only non-white person. Organisations within the engineering industry typically have very hierarchical and traditional structures. At IMC Worldwide where I currently work, the team is very diverse, and one third of the engineering team is made of women. I think that a more dynamic structure can ensure ‘talent spotting’ to allow more young people from different backgrounds to emerge: the industry needs their fresh ideas and thinking. IMC Worldwide facilitates the inclusion of young women in engineering through apprentice schemes, such as the one on the RAP Nepal Programme.
A more dynamic approach can also contribute to better gender representation. I strongly believe that a better gender balance creates a better product that works for all and is more sustainable. Engineering is a discipline that eases the burden on women in developing countries (think fetching water, or doing laundry), we need to engage more women to come up with solutions that entirely work for them.