“Boys take up mechanical engineering – girls don’t”. These were one of the responses from high school students at the Kendriya Vidyalaya DRDO school in Bangalore to the survey initiated by Volvo Group, in order to understand why so few women were enrolling in mechanical engineering.
“When we did the survey, we understood that most female students lack awareness of what a mechanical engineer actually does,” says Sonia Almeida Soares, HR Business Partner, Volvo Group in Bangalore. “They think it is a physical job that involves fixing and repairing things and that it is a field with little scope for career development.”
These misconceptions inspired the ‘Mechanical Engineering Experience for Girls’ event, which recently saw 42 students and two teachers from the Kendriya Vidyalaya DRDO school visit both Volvo Group´s office in Bangalore and the Volvo Trucks’ assembly plant in Hoskote. The students were in class 11 – an important stage in their education where they need to choose an area for specialisation after the following year, which will set the direction for their future career path.
“When we have open junior and mid-level positions for mechanical engineers, we get very few women candidates applying,” says Sonia Almeida Soares. “We also recruit directly from universities, but we see very few women graduates in mechanical-related areas.”
Sowmya Rao, Lead System Design Engineer, is one of the few women working within mechanical engineering at Volvo in Bangalore. She has been employed since 2012 when she was recruited from university. “In India, it is very common to have just two or three women in a class of 100 studying mechanical engineering. Women in India are not opting for mechanical engineering in the first place, due to a lack of awareness,” she says.
Both Sowmya Rao and Sonia Almeida Soares are part of a team of 15 women engineers who are coordinating the event.
“I chose this field because I’ve always been fascinated by how things work and how they are designed,” adds Sowmya Rao. “Since joining the Volvo Group, I’ve received excellent mentorship and have had many varied experiences working with a diverse group of people. Being able to see things that you’ve designed go into a final product – that is really satisfying. These are things I want to share with young students so they can see what a rewarding career mechanical engineering can be.”
It is hoped that the event, and any future events like it, will help change perceptions among young women, so that more will embrace mechanical engineering as a prospective career option. “By engaging with the students and specifically the teachers who play a critical role in mentoring students in their choice of career, we aim to create brand ambassadors for mechanical engineering as well,” says Sonia Almeida Soares.
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