New female chief of Leonardo's UK engineering pledges to increase diversity

The woman who has been appointed to aerospace company Leonardo’s top engineering role in the UK has said she wants to increase diversity in the industry.

By Elsa Maishman
Monday, 12th October 2020, 7:00 am
Paula Clarke. Picture: Leonardo
Paula Clarke. Picture: Leonardo

Paula Clarke has been made Engineering and Projects Director at the Italian firm’s Edinburgh office, overseeing engineering activities which support 3,000 jobs in the UK.

She has drawn on her background as a woman in a male-dominated industry, who was raised in the Middle East and arrived in the UK as a teenager, to promote diversity.

She flew to the UK from Kuwait just a week after her 18th birthday to look for new opportunities, and credits her rise to the top in part to digital networking.

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Ms Clarke wants to encourage other young people to build their networks and pursue careers which they may find daunting.

“You can use so many networks around you - social platforms, networks through schools, digital groups and there are fantastic organisations out there that help people to step outside their comfort zone,” she said.

"One of the things that I always say to young people when I’m going into schools is: build your network, do things that people might not expect you to have done – things that make them do a double-take when reading about your achievements, and do things that you are not necessarily rewarded for then and there. Use the networks through social platforms to get stuck into things you

wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn about.”

She added: “As I progressed through my career, I learned that the people in the really senior aerospace roles were just like me – they grew into their roles rather than being the whole package from day one.

“They had opportunities presented to them, or maybe a little bit of luck or grasped an opportunity, but they were the same from the perspective of not knowing it all, making mistakes and learning some elements as we go along. We can teach maths, we can teach coding, software and firmware.

"What you can’t teach is enthusiasm, drive, attitude and that self-belief that says ‘I might not have the full skill-set you are looking for right now, but I can learn and I will make this work’. The reality is sometimes you can create an opportunity if it isn’t already there. There is an element of creating your own luck through the way you behave and playing to your strengths.”

On Ada Lovelace Day on October 13 Leonardo will take part in a drive to encourage more girls and women to consider engineering as a career.

The company’s STEM ambassadors will send coding teaching packs to schools across the UK, including Pirniehall, Forthview, Craigroyston, Broughton, Tynecastle and Trinity Primary Schools.

Ada Lovelace Day is aimed at raising the profile of women in Science, Technology, Maths and Engineering.

It is named after Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, who was the only child of Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke. She is often referred to as the ‘first computer programmer’ as she recognised the full potential of computers.

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