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Olivia launches AeroWomen21 to spark exciting careers in engineering

When a female engineer working at aerospace company Leonardo couldn’t find a dynamic network to propel her professional career forward, she decided to start one herself.

Olivia Gribler, (pictured) who works at Leonardo’s Yeovil site at Lysander Road, is the founder of AeroWomen21, a new network celebrating, educating and uniting women in the aerospace industry, supported by Leonardo and the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Olivia wanted to do something to address the shortfall of female engineers in the UK and increase the diversity of candidates who apply for apprenticeships, graduate schemes and STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) courses.

Its inaugural event was held last week, using virtual technology to bring together participants across the UK, assembling everyone from Year 12 students from Yeovil, Luton, Edinburgh, Lincoln just starting to consider their future careers, to some of the leading lights of the aerospace industry.

These included Angela Owen OBE, founder of Women in Defence, Anna Keeling, Managing Director of Boeing Defence UK, and Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer at Airbus who participated in discussions, workshops and presentations. Dr Cristina Garcia Duffy, Head of Technology at the Aerospace Technology institute and Paula Clarke, Engineering and Projects Director at Leonardo (UK) also hosted a panel discussion on women’s professional experiences in the aerospace industry. The workshops focused around networking, building skills to create elevator pitches, which they practiced delivering to each other and exploring the best ways to present themselves professionally online, whether they were a student or a woman in industry.

Among the participating schools in the Yeovil region were Beaminster School, Holyrood Academy, Huish Episcopi Academy, Kings College, Richard Huish College, Sherborne School for Girls, The Gryphon School, The Sir John Colfox, Wadham School, and Yeovil College. Feedback from participants has already confirmed that they felt energised by the first event and want to join the network for year round inspiration. Olivia now feels inspired to continue to develop the network, built with help from her Leonardo colleagues Holly Ward, Jessica Chamberlain, Holly Phimister, Bethany Elwell, Samantha Hubbard, Kealey Judd, Karolina Piatek and Holly Marner.

Olivia said: “The speakers were really honest and real about their experiences and gave practical advice on how to develop your knowledge of yourself, so you can go on create a career you can be proud of. They also encouraged participants not to second-guess themselves. Many women won’t apply for a job, or follow a particular path, if they think they don’t satisfy every requirement. These women were there to tell you to put yourself forward, despite any doubts you might have, as the outcome may be beyond what they could have hoped for.”

Nick Whitney, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters (UK) shared words of encouragement with attendees, saying: “I would like to share a quote from the pioneering aviator and engineer Amy Johnson who was the first woman to fly solo from the UK to Australia in 1930 : ‘Believe nothing to be impossible.’ I want everyone participating in today’s event to be left with a sense that your future is limitless and engineering might be the ideal career to give you the most exciting adventure you could hope to experience.”

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