Dr Melita Stevens, Armadale, Victoria
Editors’ note: this letter is reprinted from Lab News, February 1997, p. 11.
I am surprised that there often seems to be only three options considered for women in science: research, diagnostic or sales (Lab News, November). As one of only very few microbiologists working in an engineering consultancy in Victoria, I feel that the option of working in the engineering industry is not readily identified as a career option for science graduates.
Engineering consultancies employ graduates from science, including chemistry, and represent an excellent opportunity for scientists to provide a link between the research world and the application of research technology.
Although the numbers of women within science disciplines in engineering is low, the numbers are certainly increasing (as are the numbers of women engineers). The chemists within engineering are generally involved in a wider variety of projects than can be undertaken as a researcher and science skills are combined with valuable project management skills.
I initially began work in engineering after my PhD, when I was unable to find a suitable post-doctoral position in Melbourne. I have a small child and I have found that the engineering industry is willing to support women as part-time workers.
Certainly the two firms I have worked for in Melbourne have been very flexible and understanding towards working mothers. The pay is comparable to that of a senior research officer/research fellow, with post-doctoral qualifications attracting approximately $50,000 within two years.
I was never aware as a science graduate that jobs outside research and sales existed, and the engineering industry is certainly losing out on valuable resources if young graduates are not made aware of these career possibilities.