A racing start

Bethany Harrod

Published on 14 August 2019

23-year-old Mechanical Engineering student Bethany Harrod has spent the last year as Team Captain for the Sun Racing Formula Student Team.

Leading the motorsport team, Bethany has been pivotal in helping design, build, test and race the single seater race car as part of the Formula Student programme.

In between that she has been studying hard and taking part in work placements all so she is geared up for life in the working world.

Bethany, from Carrville in Durham, is among an increasing number of teenage girls and young women opting to take the STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – route into a high-paying career.

And the student, who graduated in front of family at the Stadium of Light today, said: “I can’t recommend enough going down the STEM route for girls who are considering their options at the minute.

“I have loved every minute of my time at University. There are still too many stereotypes about women in engineering and we need to break them down.

“Those who are choosing not to go into STEM because they are put off by the lack of women really don’t know what they’re missing out on.

"I'm looking forward to the future and seeing what it might bring. It's been a brilliant few years here at Sunderland and I can't recommend the University highly enough."

Bethany studied maths, chemistry, and media at A Level. Not quite receiving the grades she hoped for, the student feared she might not get to study engineering.

However, ever practically minded, she investigated the possibility of doing a Foundation year at the University of Sunderland before embarking on her BEng (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering. A year in industry has also proved a huge bonus, and has now landed Bethany with a dream job with a multinational engineering company.

She said: “I feel fully equipped for working life now. In total, I have done five years at the University and it has got me ready. It’s an exciting time for women in this industry.”

Traditionally a male-dominated sector, the engineering industry is starting to address the gender imbalance to get more women like Bethany in roles.

Women in STEM are generally underrepresented, but this is particularly apparent in engineering. In 2018, just 12% of the engineering workforce was female, according to the EngineeringUK's the state of engineering report.

The University of Sunderland is leading the way in helping students like Bethany successfully complete engineering programmes.

She said: “I have learned so much over the past five years, it’s been amazing and I’ve never come across any issue simply because I’m female.”

Bethany surprised her career advisors when, still at school, she expressed an interest in becoming an engineer.

“I was just 13 or 14 at the time,” she said. “I don’t really think they knew what to say.

“Yes, I sometimes wear overalls, but I could equally follow a career in teaching maths or physics as I could in the automotive sector.

“I spend a lot more time sitting at desks, doing mathematics, than I do getting covered in oil.”