Women in Engineering with Rita Nicolas
Why study Engineering at university?
Engineering was a natural choice for Rita when deciding what to study at university.
She’s a real left brain kind of girl who loves to solve problems.
‘It was a natural progression from choosing my high school subjects to moving into the next phase of education…it was something I was just good at – the maths, the science, the physics.’
She wasn’t put off by engineering being a male dominated undergraduate course at UNSW. During her undergraduate degree only 5% of students were female.
Yet during her masters in Biomedical Engineering, women represented 40-45% of students.
“Because it is a medicine directed course, you do get more females”
Finding Romar as an employer
Rita discovered employment opportunities at Romar through the Ausmedtech conference. Romar was a sponsor and Rita decided to apply for an internship.
“It was really good timing because at that point in time they were just establishing a projects team so they were really bringing on a lot of young engineers. So I started as one of only 3 or 4 at the time”
In 6 years, Rita worked her way up from an intern, to QA Engineer, to production manager in the molding team, then to her job today as Romar’s Operations Manager. This is quite an achievement. Especially because she is the only female in a managerial role at Romar.
Rita is the perfect fit for Romar. She has the ideal laid back can-do attitude that other staff warm to. Not to mention her undergraduate major in Polymers and Masters in Biomedical Engineering. This knowledge is ideal given our focus on micromolding and medical device manufacturing.
A female in a male-dominated industry
The culture at Romar is collegiate and team-focused. Rita enjoys the environment and the family feel of the business. The culture is inclusive from the top down. She has never felt out of place being a woman in management.
‘It doesn’t really matter what your role is. If somebody needs a hand you just do it’
As more women become engineers it will become easier for the next generation.
Rita’s generation are now becoming managers and encouraging the next wave out of university to take on engineering positions.
These women are instrumental in changing the culture within the industry.
‘If you are good at what you do, it doesn’t really matter if you are female or male. Your talent will show through. The people in your company just need to be supportive… it’s all about culture’
Opportunities for women in engineering
Rita believes all girls should study some form of science, technology, engineering or maths at high school level. Several programs now exist to encourage girls to study science and maths at high school. UNSW for example offers 25 scholarships to high school students looking to study Engineering.
‘They are very good skills to have. Society needs them so they will always be in demand.’
Rita values peer-to-peer mentoring in the workplace.
During 2017, she mentored engineering students at UNSW. She guided them through their last year of study and helped to navigate internships.
Engineers Australia celebrates women in engineering through their annual awards and scholarships.
Romar values women in their workplace and continues to encourage them to apply for roles within the organisation.