Hiske Buddingh on Women in Engineering workshops

We are proud to have been ranked the third best university in the world for reducing inequality (Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2024), and this is in part owing to our students' commitment to challenging the status quo.

Hiske Buddingh, Mechanical Engineering (BEng) student, talks to us about the Women in Engineering Workshops she launched at LSBU this year with the help of our supportive academic team.

What led to the launch of the Women in Engineering Workshops?

The idea for the women’s engineering workshops has been brewing for about 10 years. I had spent years working in construction and tree surgery feeling frustrated at the constant fight to get the chance to practice. The skills I needed are things everyone learns by doing, on the job. But as a female, you really must fight for whatever chances you can get. It’s not great for your confidence and its exhausting.

I feel like anyone who feels like doing something should have the chance to try it out without worrying about being judged for it.

I realised how much the breaks get put on women in certain environments when I experienced the opposite during jewellery workshops run by Beaulagh Brooks. The workshop leader would demonstrate, explain and then we had to practice. It sounds unremarkable but the relief was immense - not only did I not have to fight to get hands on experience, but it was expected that I practice.

I thought then I should set up a Women in Engineering workshop one day. For me it’s about learning opportunities. I feel like anyone who feels like doing something should have the chance to try it out without worrying about being judged for it.

How did LSBU support you with the launch of the workshops?

My final year of mechanical engineering wasn’t the best time to start a project, but I heard a couple of female engineering students say things about how they had been feeling. It sounded familiar.

It occurred to me that maybe the best place to start the workshop was right here at LSBU. I emailed academics in the School of Engineering who were super enthusiastic and before I knew it, we had the first date set!

How did the workshops go this year?

In total we ran three workshops this year: the wood workshop induction task, building of an electronic circuit and a wooden stool. Participants learned to use various industrial woodworking tools and how to solder electronic connections. I loved watching people go from feeling intimidated by the large bandsaw to gleaming with their finished piece in hand!

Not everything was perfect, but it never is in the beginning, which is why having the chance to practice is so important. Without the imperfect beginning you go nowhere.

My favourite thing about the workshops is the sense of community.

My favourite thing about the workshops is the sense of community. The sessions are geared towards students on technical courses but are open to all women at LSBU, so we had a mix of students, staff, and researchers. I loved being in the workshop with this variety of women, all generous, intelligent, and fun to be around.

What are your future plans for the workshops?

The plan is to run CAD, electronics, metalwork, and woodwork sessions in the next academic year. We hope to make the sessions to flexible enough that people can pick, choose, and fit them around their timetabled classes. Each session will be roughly 3-4 hrs long and no experience is required, just an interest!

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