Engineering is a way of life for Prianna Jhita – it’s in her blood. The 17-year-old student from WMG Academy for Young Engineers, Coventry has grown up with her family working in the engineering and construction industry.
Prianna, from Leamington, travels to Coventry each day and is taking steps to ensure she can launch her own career in aerospace engineering. Along with eight fellow students, she runs Edge of Space, a project to launch helium balloons and rockets into space to take photographs of Earth. The group will then use the pictures to assess the effects of the diminishing greenbelt, traffic pollution and global warming.
What are you studying and what do you enjoy learning about most?
I am currently studying level 3 Engineering. What I enjoy most about my course are the opportunities I have to work with different companies such as Balfour Betty and Siemens. Whilst working with these companies in an academic environment, it also allows me to see what it is like in different working environments.
What do you want to do when you leave the UTC?
When I leave the UTC at the end of this year, I am planning on doing an apprenticeship. This will allow me to work at the same time as learning and gain skills that I would not learn if I were to attend university.
When you heard Ada Lovelace’s story what did you think?
When I first heard Ada Lovelace’s story I thought that she was only a mathematician, however after reading more I found out she was the mother of modern computing. The Pentagon and US military’s programmers even named their computing language after her.
Ada Lovelace was an extremely intellectual woman who did not get the recognition that she deserved while still alive. The work that she did, now allows us to have all this modern technology around us including what I am currently writing this on. Ada Lovelace was one of many who slowly started to bridge the gap. Although Ada’s contributions to the field of computer science were not discovered until the 1950’s, she is still known as one of the first who slowly started to bridge the gap for women into STEM back in the 1800’s.
There are many women who have helped create modern technology yet we don’t hear much about them. Why do you think this is and what can we do about it?
A lot of young girls do not get shown what women have done in the past as well as what they are currently working on for the future. They tend to only get shown what men have achieved and are achieving.
Despite this gap, some countries such as Russia and Finland are ahead of the game in terms of promoting gender equality.
What do you think are the main issues that the 21st century women face in STEM?
The main problems that women face are:
- Sexism and racism – men still think that they are above women and fight against them
- Men get paid more than women. Although this may have been a fact back in the day, it tends to be more of a stereotype.
- Women have to fight more and work harder to achieve the same things as men
- A lot of women that have thought about going into the industry are scared of being pushed down and not being able to achieve what they deserve.
How can we encourage more women into careers in STEM?
More women can be encouraged into STEM by teaching them what they can achieve and showing them what has been achieved in the past. Women as well as men still believe that the STEM industry is a male dominated industry (which it is) and they can’t do anything in the industry because men will always take the lead. They don’t understand how they can manage a career where people are always pushing them down because of their gender. If women have an interest or a passion for a career in STEM, they should push it as far as they can. It’s about proving people who didn’t believe in you as a person wrong. But most importantly, they should push forward their career choice for themselves. It is a possible dream that they could have given up on.
What does your UTC do to inspire and support you?
WMG Academy supports me in my career aspirations by allowing me the opportunity to work with different employers and companies that are both small local companies such as Squires Gears to world-wide companies such as Jaguar Land Rover. As well as this the academy arrange frequent trips to Warwick University to allow us the opportunity to work with university professors and see what we can choose to do after we leave school depending on what pathway we choose.
What women inspire you to pursue a career and why?
Two women that have inspired me to pursue a career in engineering are Paige Kassalen and Hedy Lemarr.
Paige Kassalen - She was 22 years old when she was a fully trained electrical engineer working on the world’s first solar powered plane. She was one of 3 women out of a 16 person crew working on this plane. Her role was to steer the tail of the plane onto the runway and then catch the wing when it lands.
Hedy Lamarr - She started out as a Hollywood actress in the 1930’s due to the fact she was extremely beautiful and talented. She was also extremely intelligent. Hedy invented a remote-controlled communications system for the US military during World War II. Her frequency hopping theory serves as the basis for modern communication technology such as Bluetooth and WIFI.
Both of these women have come from different generations, however they both have done a lot towards today’s society. These two inspirations are only the beginning of bridging the gap between women into careers in STEM.