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Q&A: Jenna Allen, head of curriculum for engineering at Newcastle College

This year’s International Women’s Day theme, #InspiringInclusion, resonates profoundly with the pressing needs of our society.

Although we have seen progression in some respects, there is still a huge lack of diversity in leadership and decision-making roles.

This year’s theme shines a light on the roadblocks that women face when navigating through their career, and encourages us to address the issues directly and champion inclusive practices for all.

In 2023, men outnumbered women in the global engineering workforce by 86.3 per cent to 13.7 per cent.

This stark statistic underscores the urgency of IWD 2024’s mission, and begs the question – why?

The gender gap in engineering reflects broader challenges faced by women in STEM, where barriers persist despite efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.

Here, Jenna Allen, head of curriculum for engineering at Newcastle College, speaks to NET about the steps she is taking to inspire inclusion for all and address this disparity head-on.

Tell us a little about yourself and your role at Newcastle College?

My career began with a civil engineering apprenticeship in highway maintenance, offering diverse opportunities.

Dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in engineering, I transitioned to education after a decade in industry.

Now, as head of curriculum for engineering at Newcastle College, I lead the department and empower the next generation.

I’m passionate about STEM education, encouraging women in male-dominated fields, challenging stereotypes and inspiring future female leaders in engineering and manufacturing.

Through innovative curriculum development and industry partnerships, I create an environment for individuals to thrive.

As a female leader in a male-dominated industry, how has your personal journey inspired your commitment to promoting inclusivity within the engineering sector?

From entering the industry to now reaching leadership level, I’ve learned the vital role of fostering diversity.

Progressing, I noticed the under-representation of women, including issues like ill-fitting PPE and inadequate facilities.

This fuelled my determination to advocate for change and create opportunities for women in engineering.

Drawing from my experiences, I’m passionate about dismantling barriers and empowering aspiring female engineers.

Through mentorship, outreach and curriculum enhancements, I believe we unlock industry potential.

My journey taught me diversity is both a moral imperative and a strategic advantage, leading to richer insights and a stronger engineering sector.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #InspireInclusion. How can businesses help promote this within the engineering industry, to ensure more women are in decision-making roles?

#InspireInclusion highlights the need for inclusive environments in engineering, which are crucial for attracting and involving women. Businesses can contribute by:

  • Implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, establishing equal opportunities policies
  • Tailoring leadership programmes for engineers with mentorship, sponsorship and networking
  • Offering flexible work policies, like remote options, making leadership accessible and supporting retention
  • Providing education on unconscious bias and promoting inclusive language for a positive workplace culture
  • Ensuring diverse representation in organisational leadership for varied perspectives and a commitment to inclusivity
What advice would you give to young women aspiring to pursue careers in engineering?

My advice is to build a supportive network of mentors, peers and allies who can offer guidance, advice and encouragement.

In my experience, people generally find this very flattering, and are more than happy to support.

Commit to lifelong learning and staying abreast of emerging trends and technologies in the dynamic field of engineering.

Be resilient when dealing with setbacks, learn from challenges and persevere toward your goals with determination and resilience.

Everyone’s journey is unique to them, but there is a rewarding and fulfilling career in engineering for you, where you can make meaningful contributions to society and shape the world of tomorrow.

Jenna Allen – LinkedIn

March 7, 2024

  • Arts & Culture

Created by Kate Hewison