On International Women’s Day 2021, we had a chat with Mhairi- Therese Gallagher about her career as an Electrical Design Engineer.
Q1. What would you say to girls in school/college who may be considering Engineering as a career choice/study option?
Go for it, it was the best decision I’ve ever made and wish I made that leap right after secondary school. But life got complicated for me at that time and I decided to focus on my family.
Q2. How or why did you choose Engineering as a career path/area of study?
I have two reasons, first, I grew up as the shadow of an amazing Engineer, my dad. I would stand beside him in his workshop and help him with electrical work when I was as young as 6 until I got to work with him in the factory where he was the head engineer. Secondly, I finally made the decision to take that leap when I saw my 10-year-old son building his own website from scratch and telling me he wanted to be a computer engineer, as my son had special needs I knew if he was to follow his goals I would need to do this first in order to be able to support him in following this path. Not only did I graduate with an honours degree in computer engineering but my experience helped him get into the same course I studied in. He’s now a second-year engineering student. And I’m an electrical design engineer.
Q3, What challenges do women face in Engineering professions/academia?
Professionally I haven’t felt that I have had any challenges specific to women, like everyone, once you have proven your ability any doubts disappear. In our factory, the men are the ones who brag about our female engineering operatives, how they are the best at wiring and fitting smaller fitting, how organised and meticulous they are in their work. Everyone is appreciated for their skills here. The only challenges I faced were personal- I had to study Engineering while raising four children as a single mum, I suffered health issues and family loss. But through sacrifice, perseverance, motivation and focus I managed to graduate with my honours degree in electronics and computer engineering.
Q4. What are your hopes for the future of Engineering?
I hope to see more female engineers joining us. There is a big difference in the numbers of female students attending university to study Engineering, This was something I was glad to see when teaching Engineering at DCU and hope the numbers continue to rise.