Jackie Kingston, Sales Manager, Review Display Systems, shares her experience as a women in tech with Hardware Pioneers for International Women’s Day (IWD).
As a young girl who was raised in an engineering family, I was fortunate enough to visit renowned British engineering companies such as Rolls Royce with my Dad. I was inspired and fascinated by these factory tours and the engineering world in general and decided to follow my Dad into a career in engineering. After finishing school, I completed a year-long Certificate of Extended Education (CEE) in Electronics and surprisingly, I discovered that I really enjoyed it.
Armed with school qualifications and my newly acquired qualification in electronics, I applied for an engineering position with a now long-gone British airline. I successfully passed through to final selection stages only to be told I was too feminine for the job and how would I cope with oil in my hair. My matter-of-fact reply was that I would wash it with shampoo.
I was eventually successful in getting a job with a large UK avionics equipment manufacturer, working on the shop floor. I was allowed to attend college on a day release to build and develop my electronics knowledge while continuing to develop my workplace skills on the factory floor.
As an impressionable 17-year-old I considered this to be a wonderful opportunity with an internationally respected business, although I became increasingly aware of some differences between myself and my male work colleagues. I was conscientious about doing my homework outside of working hours, whereas my male colleagues would often complete their course work during company working time. I also realised that my career prospects at this company were limited as I was considered to be a distraction to the men who worked with me.
Luckily, few male employees wanted to work in the post-design services department, so I jumped at the opportunity and was able to develop and build my career with thanks to then department manager who helped me to resolve and deal with the burdensome situation that I faced.
I was now more confident and able shine in a position where it did not matter that I was female. My new role was aftersales product support for a Royal Navy helicopter contract. After 10 years of employment with this company and continuing to attend day release, I successfully obtained a 2:1 degree in Electronics. It was now time for pastures new and to find my feet as a qualified female electronics engineer.
Fast forward, and today, after 34 years working in a male-dominated engineering world and the electronic components industry, during which time I have continued to experience ‘workplace challenges’, I work for a successful, well-respected business that appreciates and values me for my skills, knowledge, abilities, and experience.
Unfortunately, it is a reflection of the wider society that we live in today, that sexism and discrimination continue to exist within the engineering industry. Is this situation improving? Yes. Is further change necessary? Yes, absolutely. It is my hope that by writing about my experiences it will help others, regardless of sex, race, circumstance, or any of the many differences that we all have, who wish to pursue and develop a career in engineering, or any other industry that they should desire.