We need to teach girls that this is something they can do
Kath Topping, a technical director at technology innovators Arm, shares the importance of presenting engineering as a viable career option for girls from a young age.
Watch: our interview with Kath
I would say the most notable crossroads for me was my older brother, who was an engineer, helping me with my maths homework when I was in my early teens and saying to me ‘you're good at this, you could be an engineer,’ and that was the first time anybody had presented it as an option.
From that point on, all it took was for somebody to say ‘you could do this and be good at it.’ I knew that there was a possibility for me to make a career out of something I could do and I think that's really important in terms of making it clear to girls that this is something they can do.
As far as Sheffield University goes, I didn't take a direct route to go into university because I have a slightly chequered academic record. I actually took two years out and did an apprenticeship near London - I knew Sheffield had a good reputation for its faculty and so that's why I chose Sheffield.
I would say the highlight of my career has been, being awarded distinguished engineer status at arm. There are a lot of very, very clever people at arm and to actually be recognised as a distinguished engineer is really quite an achievement.
At Arm I lead a group of approximately 18 engineers and we are working on some software solutions for verifying our products. I would say that my degree focused mainly on hardware development and I used that aspect of my degree early on in my career to a very large extent and it gave me a very good grounding in that, but you also get the confidence to understand that you can learn new skills so now I'm more of a software engineer, before I got more into the management side of things, so now I'm more of a manager than an engineer which is a career path you don't have to take but that's the way things worked out for me.
I would say the highlight of my career has been, being awarded Distinguished Engineer Status at Arm. There are a lot of very, very clever people at Arm and to actually be recognised as a Distinguished Engineer at Arm is really quite an achievement.
The most common question that people pose to me when I say I'm an engineer is ‘isn't it very difficult being a female in an engineering environment?’ In actual fact, I would vouch that the opposite is true because I work with a lot of lovely educated, non-sexist men and I do not think it is a sexist environment.
I would assert that there is nothing unique about engineering as a profession that carries any different challenges to any other profession such as law, medicine or accountancy that makes it particularly difficult for females.
The best things about being an engineer - there's all the usual stuff about technical challenges and new challenges but aside from that I think that one of the best things is the variety of characters of people that you work with is interesting and the diversity makes for a real ‘Big Bang Theory’ environment which is great fun to work in.
The best thing about being an engineer is the variety of characters of people that you work with and the diversity makes for a real ‘big bang theory’ environment which is great fun to work in.
We interviewed Kath in 2019.
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