June 23 is International Women in Engineering Day (IWED) and is something that we take very seriously here at Parvalux. At present almost 30% of the Parvalux workforce are women, and we always welcome applications from women to join us.

Our Head of Engineering Florbela Costa, and Head of HR Ellee Williams are highly valued members of the team, both award-winning and shining examples to their peers throughout the Engineering industry. Working alongside Ellee and Florbela are Dominika Dingova, Project Manager and Natalia Stefu, Team Leader.

According to the Engineering UK report released in March 2022, nationally, women only make up 16.5% of all engineers. However, this is an improvement on the 10.5% reported in 2010 showing there is a change happening in the right direction. This is a trend we hope to continue within our own engineering team here at Parvalux.

STEM Roles Available

Working in the engineering industry does not limit applicants to the role of Engineer, as the career paths are diverse. Dominika Dingova, for example, is Project Manager, after studying Industrial Management at university. She entered this career path due to her skills and enjoyment of organising and planning as well as her family background in engineering. Both her parents, and her sister studied some form of engineering at the same university and her sister is embarking on a civil engineering career. Dominika explained; “as a child, I was always interested in how things worked, aeroplanes in particular and thought it was incredible how people could create something tangible out of an idea.”

In her role as Project Manager, which she started 18 months ago, she oversees New Product Introduction (NPI) in regard to the research and development of electric motors and gearboxes. She is responsible for creating project plans and time schedules, as well as overseeing the building and testing of samples, pre-production build, monitoring project progress, and leading project meetings with all the involved departments within Parvalux. She is involved in the management of projects from the initial phase to completion, whether road map or customer-driven products.

As an engineer, Florbela Costa, in her role as Head of Engineering has a different but challenging position. She manages a team of 24 (five of them women) which include project managers, designers, production engineers, sample pack, lab and change control management. It is a job she loves and says of the future; “I want to continue to lead people, as I find it really rewarding work and I also want to remain driving companies’ strategical decisions.”

Florbela & Dominika
Florbela Costa (Left) & Dominika Dingova (Right)

She also comes from an engineering background as her godfather was a mechanical engineer.

“When I was 15, I was curious about what he was doing and he opened his laptop and showed me a 3D model of the inside of a car he and his team were working on. And I was just fascinated by this type of work. He told me if you like mathematics and physics then that is what you should do.”

She studied aeronautical engineering at university as she loved aeroplanes and space. When she graduated, she was lucky enough to get a graduate position working on a project to develop an aeroplane.

With such varied roles within the industry, it is difficult to pinpoint specific skills required but Dominika explained; “for my position, it’s important to be very organised, to be good at dealing with people and difficult situations, to be flexible, with a pragmatic approach.”

Florbela adds that as “an engineer you need to be logical, as engineering is about understanding how things work. You need to be resilient and motivated as you will face struggles as a woman in the industry.”

Challenges to Women in STEM

The engineering industry as well as other STEM industries has been male dominated since its beginnings and it is only in the last few decades that there has been a shift in attitudes towards women and the creation of a more inclusive environment. But there is still a lot of work to do.

Dominika added that small micro-aggressions can also be surprising. For example, when she is introduced to some people as a project manager they respond with ‘oh wow.’ “Why is it wow?” she asks, “If they were introduced to a male or someone 15 years older than me, they wouldn’t be surprised. I do think that this attitude needs to change – how you welcome women into the business.”

Florbela recalls in her first position out of university that she was always keen and motivated and wanted to forge a career in engineering but, “my boss kept blocking me. He kept saying you are not ready, and I can’t really see a woman doing that role. He was very old-fashioned in that way.” But she persevered because “I wanted to show him that I could do it.” And she did, when a few years later he changed his mind and gave her the role she wanted.

On the Right Path

As more women enter the STEM environment these attitudes are slowly changing and creating a more even playing field. Florbela explains:

“in the past men were not as favourable to female applicants but now companies are getting more aware of that issue and are trying to find ways to not be biased and to seek people for their competencies. Within my professional life, I have seen some companies changing their mindset, individual people as well, on how they perceive women and giving them opportunities. I do see the change happening which is great but there is more improvement to be done.”

More engineering companies are now promoting and celebrating women in STEM with some offering mentoring and networking events enabling potential female engineers to meet other women in the industry. Some even offer specific awards for women in engineering. Dominika believes this to be very encouraging for young women who are considering forging a career in this sector.

Natalia would like to encourage more women to get into engineering & manufacturing. She said:

“I would say to that there is no limit, you only set the borders. Embrace your talent and do not be afraid to reach for the sky.”

Natalia Stefu
Natalia Stefu, Team Leader

Ellee also feels the industry is a great choice for women to develop their careers and would like to encourage more to do so, asked what advice Ellee would give to others contemplating a career in STEM she said:

“Believe in yourself: Recognise your abilities and have confidence in your skills. Remember that your gender does not define your capabilities or limit your potential. You are just as capable of excelling in manufacturing and engineering as anyone else.”

Ellee Williams
Ellee Williams, HR Manager

Florbela thinks education is key to bringing more women into the industry as she believes that not many young women are fully aware of the opportunities available in a modern engineering business. She thinks that in addition to going to schools to offer motivational talks, young people should be allowed into the companies like open days or ‘bring your child to work day,’ allowing the children and parents to see what the work entails.

This is exactly what Parvalux is introducing once we have moved into our new space – inviting local schools to tour the factory including Parkstone Grammar School (a girl’s school that is almost adjacent to the new site). This will give them some real-time experience on what a working factory is like and the opportunities available.

Dominika believes the future looks bright for women in the engineering sector and she has seen some positive changes in the last ten years including an increase in women entering the industry. “It will keep growing and there will be more and more women in engineering,” she said, “and hopefully in the coming years we will see more women in management and boardroom roles, having gender-diverse board members produces new views, ideas, more diverse problem solving and decision making which can play a vital role in the overall success of the organisation.”

Here at Parvalux, we are always looking to grow our team as well as to promote equality and diversity. If you are looking for your next role why not head over to our careers page or get in touch today.