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Lucy Collins - WISE Young Women's Board 2014-2016

Lucy Collins - WISE Young Women's Board

Naval Architect, Ministry of Defence, London Currently on secondment to University College London completing a PhD and specialising in submarine design

I’m a Naval Architect for the Ministry of Defence. I specialise in submarine design and am on secondment to University College London completing a part time PhD as well as managing the experimental facilities and helping to run the MSc in Naval Architecture and the Submarine Design Course (only one of its kind in the world). I have a First Class MEng degree in Civil and Structural Engineering from the University of Sheffield and an MSc in Naval Architecture from UCL, passed with Distinction. I am an Associate Member of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, a Lt Constructor in the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors and a student member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (I’m also the Chair and founder of the first student section of this society in the UK).

I can think of no other professions which contribute more to society than those within science, technology and engineering. These professions change the world. These professions shape society. Let’s take a minute to think about this: Who is responsible for the roads and railways that get you to work? Who created the vaccines that stop your children catching deadly diseases? Who designed the software that allows you to send an email? The answer to these questions highlight why the results of the UKCES Report should be extremely concerning to all of us. If we want to enjoy a society that continues to grow and thrive within the world economy that is.

I became a submarine engineer because I read that ‘designing a submarine is as challenging and complex as designing the space shuttle’. Yes, I love a challenge. But to solve the future challenges within STEM like curing cancer, coping with climate change, a growing world population and the shortage of raw materials, we are going to need more than my enthusiasm for problem solving. In fact, we are going to need approximately 1.86 million more workers with engineering skills within the UK economy by 2020.

‘How are we going to achieve this?’ should be a question on everyone’s minds. And I admit that maybe not many people would be swayed by a job description like the one that led me to submarine design. But every day I hear of more and more exciting opportunities and reasons for pursuing a STEM career and I wonder why apprenticeships and degree courses aren’t completely oversubscribed. If I stopped someone on the street and asked; ‘would you like to have a job that is different every day, will give you opportunities to travel the world, is within the top paying jobs, will impact people’s lives on a day to day basis and is rewarding?’, won’t and shouldn’t the answer be a resounding ‘yes!’?

And yet, despite our efforts we see that numbers have stagnated. In particular, there is a large talent pool that is woefully under-exploited. 50% of STEM GCSEs are taken by girls, and these girls are outperforming the boys. However, nearly 4 out of 5 students taking A-Level physics are male. Women are now a third more likely than men to opt to go to university but 85% of engineering and technology degrees are awarded to men. Only half of female STEM graduates go on to work in STEM roles and only 13% of the STEM workforce in the UK is female.

More needs to be done to encourage female talent into STEM and we all have a part to play. As a member of society, we need to be aware of the amazing things that science, technology and engineering professions contribute to our lives. As parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and teachers, we need to make young girls aware of the career opportunities available and how fulfilling, rewarding and exciting they are. As industry representatives, we need to do all we can to attract and retain female talent. In the media, we need to talk about and promote the wonderful work going on in STEM. As STEM professionals, we need to be outward facing and show the passion we have for our careers every day.

At WISE, our mission is to achieve one million more women in the UK STEM workforce. Yes, I love a challenge but this is one for all of us.

Photo: Enterprise and Innovation in Science and Technology Event at the University of Westminster, June 2015

Left to right:

  • Anna Cheng, Intel (WYWB 14/15)
  • Professor Jane Lewis, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of Science and Technology Department, University of Westminster
  • Professor Thierry Chaussalet, Leader MSc Business Intelligence and Analytics and Health and Social Care Modelling Group Faculty Director of Business Development Faculty of Science and Technology
  • Lucy Collins
  • Emilie Ravel, Rolls-Royce (WYWB 14/15)

Read some articles about Lucy

Submarine designer star of science festival

STEM careers – let’s hear it for the girls – and for the boys, too!

Submarine engineer campaigns for a million more female scientists

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