Mentoren van excursies

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Tijdens deze excursies zullen studentes in het hoger onderwijs de kans krijgen om vrouwen die werken in de luchtvaart industrie te ontmoeten en te leren van hun ervaringen.

De excursies zullen worden georganiseerd in elk partner land. Bezoek de individuele webpagina’s per taal voor nationale evenementen.
Title: Mentoren van excursies
Date: 25 February 2015

This event brought female students in the University’s Aerospace Engineering faculty into contact with women who work in the aerospace industry in order for them to learn about the existing challenges and opportunities for female professionals in this field. The event included an interactive dinner that was held in the Delft city centre from 18:00 to 22:00 on 25th Feb. 2015. The dinner was interspersed with presentations about the IN2SAI project and professional career development at NLR (the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory). There were questions and answers after each presentation.

The participants were welcomed by the TU Delft IN2SAI team. The attendees were 3 professional female speakers from the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR), 13 female bachelor students from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology, and 4 TU Delft IN2SAI team members.

Prof. Richard Curran gave the opening talk. He is the chair of the Air Transport and Operations section of the University’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, and is the project manager of the IN2SAI TU Delft team. He highlighted the purpose of the event. With the low participation rate of female students in scientific fields in general, and in the aerospace industry in particular, it is necessary to find explanations for this phenomenon and how to address them. It is also important to identify the strengths of the female students in these fields, and encourage them to maintain and enhance their advantages in the academic world and in industry. Following  Prof. Curran, the motivations, objectives, involved organizations, and preliminary outcomes of the IN2SAI project were presented by IN2SAI members Xiaojia Zhao and Elisabeth van der Sman.

Then, interspersed throughout the dinner, the three NLR speakers gave their inspiring presentations. They presented highlights from their own professional careers, and how enjoyable and satisfying they were. The first speaker, Marja Eijkman, who is the division manager of Air Transport and a member of the Board of Directors of NLR, shared her story of personal development from the Fokker aircraft company to NLR. She mentioned the gender distribution of NLR’s scientific & engineering staff: 5% women and 95% men (similar to the distribution of the staff in the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering). But she said that the female staff percentage has been increasing in recent years. The participants at the dinner asked about her experiences in managing and leading a work team over the past twenty years. Questions such as ‘have you felt any differences between interacting with male and female employees when performing your work?’ and ‘have you encountered any obstacles during work because you are a female’ were asked. Marja does not feel there is a big difference between interacting with males and females during work. She suggested that the students maintain their passion and optimism during their work, and work hard to overcome any obstacles. The second speaker, Natalie Munninghoff, is from NLR’s Division of  Rotorcraft and is working on rotorcraft airworthiness. She has more than ten years of experience in airworthiness certification for military and commercial rotorcraft. Her passion and interest in engineering activities are very impressive. Questions like ‘How do you like to work with a variety of different people when you do certification?’ were asked. She mentioned her interests in working with different rotorcraft types and with people from various cultures. She suggested that the participants be brave, try different things, and realize their ideas by trying them. The third speaker, Marieke Suijkerbuijk, is from NLR’s Division of Air Transportation. She has spent almost 10 years working on human factors as part of developing virtual reality devices for pilots in unusual operating conditions. The participants at the dinner were inspired by her highly skilled and unusual working experience. The dinner courses were served between the presentations from NLR. After each course, the invited speakers and the IN2SAI TU Delft team swapped seats among the three tables, so that the participants could communicate with the speakers and TU Delft team members in depth. This process was successful in facilitating communication, which was one of the goals of the Mentoring Field Trip event.

After the dinner, the members of the IN2SAI team and of the student society VSV ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ gave their special thanks to the speakers. The participants were happy to fill out the event questionnaires before concluding the day with a word of thanks to all participants. The event ended with an atmosphere of shared experience and useful dialogue between the students and the invited speakers. Prof. Curran summarized by saying that this event is a small step on the way to motivating female participation, but such events may finally change the current situation and increase the number of female students and employees in the aerospace industry.

In summary, the Mentoring Field Trip aimed at increasing the interest of young women in pursuing careers in scientific fields and in the aeronautic industry. Higher educational students were provided with the opportunity to see real life examples of women working in the aeronautic industry and to learn from their experiences. During the event, we paid special attention to strengthening the communication between the invited professionals and the higher education students. There was plenty of time for the students to talk with the speakers about their concerns, and about their interest in studying and working in scientific fields and industries.

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