Inspirational women in STEM… Kate Mactear

Kate, who sits on the Women’s Engineering Society’s Young Member’s Board and studies at Bristol Uni, concludes our series meeting women in STEM

Kate Mactear is determined to change the stereotype of an engineer. Kate is currently completing an MSc in Biomedical Engineering at University of Bristol and is part of the Women’s Engineering Society’s Young Member’s Board where she actively promotes women in engineering. Plus, Kate is a triathlete who has represented GB in her age group, confirming that there is definitely more to an engineer than meets the eye. 

How did your school support your passion for STEM? 

I went to Burgess Hill Girls and we were encouraged to take subjects that we enjoyed and were good at. It was a single-sex school and that definitely helped because subjects were not seen as ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’.

What do you like most about STEM subjects? 

I really like that there is always an answer. With maths and physics you know when you’ve got the right answer and I found that really satisfying. I enjoy working through problems as my brain is quite logical. 

How can schools encourage girls to consider a STEM career? 

I think the problem stems from the fact that people don’t know what an engineer is. They might think of an old man in a hard hat and we need to change that image by creating different role models. Girls need to see more women working in engineering so that they realise it could be a career for them. 

You are on the Young Member’s Board – what does that involve? 

I have been part of the Young Member’s Board for the past two years and there are 12 of us who are all under 30 and at the start of our engineering careers. Our role is to get younger girls involved in engineering, so we visit schools to highlight what our day-to-day job is like. The most important thing is to show girls that I am just a normal 25-year-old and if I can do it, they can do it too. 

What is the most common question you are asked during school visits? 

I think the girls just want to know more about the role of an engineer. I also often get asked how I got into engineering and I always explain that there is more than one route. Yes, I went to university, but apprenticeships are also an option. 

What needs to change in STEM? 

I think we need diversity in the workplace as that is when you come up with the best ideas. We all think in a slightly different way, no matter where we come from, so having as many different people as possible is only a good thing. Plus, more diversity will help to retain more women, as when you are the only woman in the office it can be intimidating. 

As well as engineering you are also a triathlete, how do you juggle both? 

I think engineering is a really great career for being a triathlete because it is so flexible. During my graduate scheme at BAE systems they offered flexible working so it meant I could work and train for the triathlon. 

What has been your proudest moment so far? 

Getting my degree was definitely my proudest moment and hopefully when I get my Master’s that will be another proud moment. In terms of the triathlon, I won Gold in 2017 at the European Olympic distance Triathlon Championships. 

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