Marine Favre-Decloux: "The only boundaries we have are the ones we put around ourselves"
In life there are two paths you can follow when it comes to working. Either your job is 'the thing you do' or it reflects 'who you are' as a person. A cheese-packer for instance would not describe themselves as such on introduction whereas a nurse, doctor, teacher, journalist or engineer will nearly always begin with 'I am a...'
Marine Favre-Decloux, Consulting Engineer at GRM Consulting chose to be a mechanical engineer because it was something that sprang from who she was - a person with an inherent curiosity, for as long as she can remember, about how objects worked on the inside. In a way, it could probably be said that engineering chose her rather than vice versa.
Marine is among the small minority of women in a sector that is crying out for more engineers, and definitely more women engineers, and her message to girls and young women is to have the confidence to "invest the time and effort in who you are" despite the obstacles or oftentimes the absence of support in their environment, if that is a factor.
Girls starting out or choosing their future studies, though they are interested and do well at maths and science, often do not have the self confidence to keep moving in that direction.
If there is one recurring theme that comes through from study after study as to why fewer women choose STEM careers, it's that girls starting out or choosing their future studies, though they are interested and do well at maths and science, often do not have the self confidence to keep moving in that direction.
Marine stresses how important it is to have this self-confidence because it is what will take aspiring women engineers to their goal from school where support might be lacking, on to male-dominated courses at university and then into a male-dominated sector... for now anyway.
Her early childhood was marked by an interest in cars, "but I also had Barbies", says Marine whose father is an engineer, though it is her mother she cites more when she talks about being allowed to be who she was and doing the things she liked doing, and whose advice she espouses when it comes to pursuing a career.
Marine believes many girls who think about pursuing engineering might be put off by the additional years of study or the cost involved. She said it's five years compared to three for a Bachelor's and young women might be in a hurry to enter the workforce for any number of reasons, especially in the UK.
Marine believes many girls who think about pursuing engineering might be put off by the additional years of study or the cost involved. She said it's five years compared to three for a Bachelor's and young women might be in a hurry to enter the workforce for any number of reasons, especially in the UK where university is not a given. In France university education is free and even covered the cost of her Master's in the UK. But there are loans schemes available in the UK that you don't have to pay back if you are unable to find a job afterwards or don't earn a certain amount, she says.
"There is a lot of investment in terms of time and studies so you need to like it, or otherwise you are going to be bored very soon. If it's really what you're interested in there is always a way either in the UK or elsewhere in Europe."
University was where Marine first noticed the gender gap. "It was mostly men, let's be honest," she says though in certain disciplines such as ergonomics, the class might be 50/50 but otherwise it was more or less 80/20. It created no issues however.
Currently she is quite excited about a project the company is working on involving train seats and trying to make sure they are the safest possible in the event of a crash, and that they don't just fly out of place on impact. "When you do something for the security of people it kind of adds another aspect to your work... you work for people. It's not just designing pretty things, it's also designing safe things," Marine says.
In the case of the train seat, first the work was done on computer simulations and then a prototype was built followed by a crash enactment. "We got very good results on injury and the integrity of the seat. So it's kind of proves whether you've done your work right on the simulation and made a train that is safer."
Marine could not immediately put her finger on a 'dream project' but says she would love to come up with a car that has zero impact on the planet, though she is not a fan of self-driving cars simply because she loves cars and loves to drive. "If I wanted to sit back and relax I would take the train," she adds.
Although Marine did have a supportive environment to help her along the path to engineering, she noticed the lack of role models for young women thinking of pursuing the same career.
Although Marine did have a supportive environment to help her along the path to engineering, she noticed the lack of role models for young women thinking of pursuing the same career, and there was one encounter that stuck in her mind - Martine Kempf, a computer scientist who invented a computer-based voice activation system.
Marine met her at an automotive show in Paris where she was working to make a bit of money during her studies. Although she was already on the road to becoming an engineer, meeting Kempf reinforced that feeling of making the right choice when they talked.
Marine’s advice to any girl thinking of going down the engineering path is to do whatever it is they want to do and not to place limits on themselves both at work or schools. She stresses how important it is to wake up in the morning and go to work and say: 'this is really interesting'.
"It's important for your self esteem to be interested in what you're doing and to feel like you're making a difference. Doing a job you like is the best thing you can do. I know it might be difficult to sacrifice four or five years without earning any money but it's definitely worth it because it's going to be what you're doing for the rest of your life. Just spending this amount of time at the beginning of your life is going to change a lot in terms of the possibilities and the doors you open to yourself," Marine concludes.