Introducing FemEng: A safe space for marginalised engineers

Meg Howe discusses the road to inclusion with founders Charlotte and Louisa

Meg Howe
15th February 2021
Image: Builtin.com
Charlotte McMain and Louisa Beevers founded FemEng in February 2021. As the name suggests, FemEng provides a safe space for those of a marginalised gender in all Engineering disciplines to be heard. The Courier's Meg Howe sat down with both founders to understand what drove the formation of the society and their plans for the future.

Since launching FemEng in early February, Charlotte and Louisa have been inundated with messages from people hoping to join. The society now has a full committee of twelve members, including course reps from each discipline of Engineering.

Charlotte and Louisa have both experienced being part of the minority in STEM subjects. They gave examples of their time in school; being one of only a few woman in classes such as physics or maths, battling the perception that STEM subjects are inherently male that inevitably leads to a male-dominated sector. Similarly, Charlotte and Louisa both state that on the Mechanical Engineering programme, there are less than thirty female students.

Charlotte had to use the guest changing room, despite being a full-time employee, because the department did not have a designated changing room for women

During her year in industry, Charlotte worked for a company that had never had a female employee in the department that she was working in. Having to get changed at work every day meant that Charlotte had to use the guest changing room, despite being a full-time employee, because the department did not have a designated changing room for women. These experiences shaped Charlotte and Louisa’s opinions of Engineering, and encouraged them to found FemEng.

Both Charlotte and Louisa have positions on the committee of the MecEng society. Louisa is the President and Charlotte is the Women’s Officer. Charlotte’s position highlights the need to have the voices of marginalised genders heard within this society, as well as on a broader scale across Engineering and other STEM subjects.

So far, FemEng has received nothing but positive comments and positive feedback, with the Head of School being exceptionally supportive of the society. Charlotte and Louisa have high aspirations for the society, with the overall aim of bringing everyone together from the school and to become a voice for women, whose voices "often get lost!" They understand that women and other marginalised genders face unique challenges, and therefore wish to facilitate dialogue between the society and the school. They also acknowledge that in a realistic workplace, different disciples of engineering will come together, and therefore this is something they hope the society will be able to replicate.

Charlotte and Louisa wish to stress that the society is completely inclusive

FemEng also hope to become an affiliated society with the Women in Engineering society, where they will be provided funds and the opportunity to expand their network. As President of MecEng, Louisa currently provided Industry and Career talks with professionals, that she hopes to carry over to FemEng; providing a chance for the members to hear an insight to the working world. Similarly, the society hope to eventually introduce an out-reach programme with schools, which would allow volunteering opportunities for the members of the society.

FemEng Logo

While Charlotte and Louisa will both graduate in the Summer of 2021, they hope to set the foundations and networks for the committee to flourish in the 21/22 academic year.

FemEng are currently waiting for the approval of NUSU, and hope to be listed on the NUSU Societies page in the coming weeks for people to sign up for membership. They hope that they will be able to hold a virtual meet and greet event for their members to get to know one another; this may take place in the form of a virtual coffee morning.

While the society is named FemEng, Charlotte and Louisa wish to stress that the society is completely inclusive. They do not wish to just be the voice of those who identify as a woman, but hope to be able to represent those who are discriminated against in any way. They hope to encourage anyone from any degree programme to join FemEng; and hope that this will allow anyone to meet new people by joining the society.

Follow FemEng on Instagram @FemEng.ncl and on Facebook, Newcastle University FemEng Society.

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AUTHOR: Meg Howe
Passionate History student and Educator

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