Women Engineers

Fast-Cars And PhDs: Promoting Female Engineers (In Unlikely Places)

Written by Elena Doncheva | Women Engineers | Wednesday 26th February 2014 11:22:00 GMT

A Manchester University PhD student with a keen interest in fast-cars promotes women in engineering. Female engineers should not be treated any differently, reports Elena Doncheva.

Alexandra Stefanescu has a non-stereotypical ambition to join a Formula 1 team

Alexandra Stefanescu has a non-stereotypical ambition to join a Formula 1 team

It is time to look into the lack of female presence in engineering. Especially within disciplines many men would find masculine. And fields where seeing female engineers would be for some, well, astonishing. 
 
But Alexandra Stefanescu adds a bit of feminine feel to the challenging, yet variously applicable category of aerodynamics.
 
Researching and developing New Turbulence Models for Motorsport Applications at the moment, the topic of her PhD, she has shifted slightly from aerospace to the automotive industry, which proves that as a motivated young engineer, she manages to stand out. 
 
Alex is an active promoter for increasing the number of female engineers. She fights the prejudices people have every day. "In my professional entourage, I don't feel like I am treated any differently for being female, which of course is great! Except, I stir quite a lot of surprise when I reveal my occupation and the field of my work to non-engineers,” she says.
 
“The other day, after telling someone I am a student, I was immediately asked: 'So you must write lots of essays'. I do understand that females in engineering are rare, but stereotypical remarks such as that do not help.”
 
People shouldn’t make female engineers feel special, Alex says. “I think that people should support females in engineering in ways that do not make them feel special, or unusual, because there shouldn't be anything unusual about women in engineering,” she says. “And at the end of the day, it is a strike for equality, not special treatment."
 
There have been more initiatives to improve gender equality, but not nearly enough, Alex says. “I feel that although more is done nowadays to encourage young girls to take up science and engineering, it's not done at an early enough age,” she explains. 
 
“Personally, I think that going into schools and speaking to sixth form girls about science and engineering is too late to influence their decision.”
 
Her own curiosity led her to this profession. Since a very young age Alex had the desire to learn and evolve. "As a child, when faced with challenges and questions about how various things work, I would have always envisaged the answer with images in my head, or a video of the mechanism in question, which I think is a valuable asset to have as an engineer,” Alex says.
 
She manages to find the time to actively promote engineering to young and aspiring minds. Inspiring others is definitely not an easy task; it requires a real passion and enormous understanding of the field. "I have been actively involved with the Royal Aeronautical Society for nearly two years,” Alex says. “I enjoy being able to help others progress with their careers, and nurture our professional environments. 
 
“Through the Royal Aeronautical Society Young Persons Committee, which I am the Vice-Chair of and Newsletter Editor, I can reach out to young professionals and students, offering them the chance to get involved with activities developing their team-building skills. Some write for our newsletter, some help co-ordinate our activities – whether at the society headquarters or at local branches.” 
 
Her outstanding individuality and diverse interests help her conquer one challenge after another. Alex is definitely on the fast-track to success. 
 
And her attraction to fast cars may win Alex her dream job, joining a Formula 1 team, very soon. 

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