The feminine side to STEM
Kanza Amanullah, a Development Engineer at John Crane, is proud to be a woman in engineering and doesn’t believe it means giving up her femininity.
There is a perception of women entering male-dominated fields that they need to become ‘one of the guys’ to succeed. Why do women feel they must abandon their feminine identity in order to work in science, technology, engineering or maths?
“There has been a lot of focus over the past few years to encourage women to go into STEM. The aim seems to be, that women should be allowed to do whatever men can do and gain the same respect and status as them. I believe that sometimes within this context, women feel they can only be successful when they emulate men.” Says Kanza.
Kanza is a self-confessed ‘girly girl’ and is renowned in her office for her collection of pink fluffy pens; being an engineer, she says, doesn’t mean turning your back on femininity.
“I don’t believe that having a successful career in engineering means you can’t be feminine. Femininity means something different to everyone, so I think it’s about being, authentic. Being yourself.”
Kanza has always been technically minded and once dreamed of becoming a commercial pilot. Unfortunately, difficult aptitude tests and expensive exams meant this was not practical.
“I never considered engineering originally, I thought it was a male dominated world that I wouldn't fit into. It was actually a teacher at flight school who recommended I look into it.’
Kanza took their advice and enrolled on a Mechanical Engineering course at Brunel University. She loved the course and the challenges it presented, however, she still had some reservations.
“It wasn’t until I started working at an automotive company, during my placement year, that I realised a career in engineering didn’t necessarily mean working in a dirty environment, wearing overalls and working offshore. Rather, it’s about learning, problem solving and innovation. And the great thing was, I could wear my pink jacket and high heels while doing it!”
Kanza joined John Crane straight after graduating, working on a range of turbo gas seals for the energy industry. She uses new technology and innovative techniques to push the boundaries of existing products and bring new ones to market.
The project she’s most proud of is a turbo gas seal that she’s developed for the oil and gas industry which considerably reduces methane gases, helping to protect the environment.
“All gas seals work by leaking gas to the atmosphere, but the one I’ve developed would be able to cut methane emissions drastically and provide operational savings. The hope is is that this will give operators the economic justification they need to choose a more environmentally friendly option.”
Kanza is ambitious and would like to become a senior engineering leader and develop more solutions to protect the environment. She wants to help change perceptions of the industry and develop other female engineers.
“It’s not all about hard hats, a career in engineering doesn’t mean losing sight of your femininity. If you want to make a difference in the world and actually change the way things work then engineering is a great choice.”