Luton female engineer writes poem to inspire women to enter profession
A female engineer in Luton has written a poem to inspire others to enter the profession.
Paula Clarke is an engineer and project director at defence firm Leonardo, and she has released a poem to mark International Women in Engineering Day (INWED).
Paula decided to write a poem when she was asked to deliver a presentation at a virtual conference for the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) in November last year.
The response from attendees was so positive, that she has released a filmed version of the poem, featuring verses read by a number of Leonardo’s leading female engineers, to celebrate INWED on Wednesday.
Paula says she felt the need to take a risk in order to challenge the next generation of engineers to go out of their comfort zone.
Paula said: “Some of the UK’s most eminent engineers were assembled for the conference and I thought, ‘Well, what do I have to offer that is a bit different?'
"That’s where the idea for the poem came from.
"I decided to share a very personal part of my experiences as an individual because sometimes a good way to start an important conversation is by having the courage to be the first person willing to be vulnerable.
"I’m not a poet so in doing something out of the ordinary, I wanted to show that opening yourself up to criticism and doing something you wouldn’t normally do is ok”
Paula presents her poem in the film, with fellow female engineers from across the UK and Italy picking up verses to show their support for its powerful messages. Paula called the poem ‘In my Defence’ in a play on words.
The poem describes her experiences where she has felt she had to 'forge' and 'strengthen' her identity in a professional environment.
Paula said: “I wanted to be a bit playful and open up the conversation, sharing some things you probably won’t read about in books. It’s not about being a feminist - it is about being totally authentic.
"I would like to think I am different from the archetypal female leader who can be portrayed as somewhat harsh. I’m an employee, a mum, a daughter, a sister and I happen to have pursued a career in Engineering, just like millions of other women worldwide.
"But there aren’t enough of us and it’s still perceived as less accessible for women and that’s just not true.
"If we want other women to join the club, we need to show them we all have the same challenges, fears and aspirations and that those perceived barriers can be overcome if engineering is your passion by taking accountability for the way you operate in your own environment.”
One paragraph in her poem states:
“They should ponder how it feels to be judged
More by perception than what they do
And I commit to promoting on merit
So that you can really be you.”
Kam Perry, innovation director of Electronics UK at Leonardo, was among the group of female engineers who read some of the verses of Paula’s poem and found the words had special meaning for them.
Kam said: “As a professional, an engineer, a working mum, a wife and for the many roles that we play, the element I most related to in the poem was the celebration of being an individual. Paula has described experiences that I think many will recognise. It acknowledges all the experiences that have led us to where we are now and who we have become and that is worthy of celebration.”
Paula added: “Even in the last decade, studies still show that women are expected to act a certain way to fit in and that can mean suppressing their natural expressiveness and drive them to feel a need to behave more like men. The future of engineering should be one where we actively encourage people to be themselves whatever that self may be, as when you are being authentic you can contribute so much more of yourself to a business. For businesses, that means more engaged employees, more invested employees and in the future, more women in engineering and leadership”
The video will be available to view from International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June, 2021 onwards on Leonardo’s You Tube channel which can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/LeonardoCompany