Being a woman in the Royal Engineers

We caught up with Private Georgia Ball from the Royal Engineers on what it's like to be a woman in engineering and her advice to girls interested in STEM

Partnerships team
11 February 2019

What made you want to be an engineer?

If I’m honest, engineering was never something I considered as a career growing up, or even throughout my time at university. I actually studied business for my degree. Engineering was something I knew very little about. It was only once I began basic training in the army, my eyes were opened to what engineering could actually entail, and I began to realise it was something I really wanted to do.

I think the term engineer can sound quite daunting at first.

Before starting I had absolutely no knowledge of mechanical engineering. I wasn’t particularly gifted nor did I have a big interest in maths and science at school. In fact they were probably the subjects I least enjoyed. So engineering wasn’t ever a career path suggested to me.

It was only later in life that I realised those topics can be enjoyable, and maybe I did have an aptitude for them. I just needed to apply them in a more practical way. Since starting this career I’ve gained skills and qualifications that I never thought possible.

What would you say to girls interested in engineering?

I would say that girls need to know that engineering and other STEM roles aren’t just for the boys. There’s nothing about engineering roles that makes men more suitable than us for the job. I would say look into different roles and what they entail, if you can imagine yourself doing that for a job then just go for it.

Above: Georgia recommends watching the film Hidden Figures. She says 'It’s the most inspiring film about three women who were breaking boundaries and doing incredible things for engineering and woman at NASA in the 1960s.'

What’s your typical day like?

So a typical day for me always starts with my favourite: physical training. It can be anything from a group run, a lesson going over the obstacle course or even team sports such as football or volleyball. Then starts the work. My job is quite varied and covers a wide variety of skills such as handling explosives, knot tying, how to purify water, how to operate construction tools, how to build fortifications, drive a speed boat, and what we’re probably most famous for; building bridges. As a Royal Engineer I also have a specialist trade that I’m trained in, mine being a General Fitter. It’s my job to know all about the various aspects of vehicles and large military equipment. Such as water pumps, generators, and large plant equipment such as JCB diggers.

What’s your favourite guiding memory?

It was my first month in Guides, having just moved up from the Brownies. The Queen was celebrating her Golden Jubilee, 50 years on the throne! To commemorate, Guides from across the country had met up for a huge celebration weekend. It was my first-time camping, as well as my first time away from home and I remember feeling so grown up. The weekend was full of exciting activities I had never done before, such as rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking and one of my favourites, barn dancing!

It was my first taste of outdoor adventure and I absolutely loved it.

Did anything from your time in guiding inspire you to get to where you are in engineering today?

It’s practical, it’s hands on, and it’s logical. You have a problem and must find the best way to solve it. That’s how I would sum up engineering. I’ve always loved all these things and looking back they were skills I first learnt in guiding.

What would you say to Girlguiding volunteers to encourage girls’ interest in engineering?

I think we need to make girls (and everyone) realise engineering is in everything that we do. From the architect who designed the Guide hut that you go to every week, to the bricklayers, fabricators and electricians who built it.

Everything around us has been designed, engineered, and built by an engineer of some description.

How can engineering made more accessible to women?

Even in the time since I’ve left guiding, it’s great to see that opportunities that help girls towards a career in engineering have increased.

But despite big advances, I do think engineering is still seen as a male role. In the army, although it’s encouraged, I’m still one of only a few women in the Royal Engineers. But I do find it inspiring meeting women who have had success and climbed the ranks in their job. Hearing how they got there and listening to the challenges they overcame. We all need to support each other to achieve our goals.

Putting girls in the lead

The British Army sponsors our new Lead skills builder, helping girls develop the tools and confidence to take the lead.