Breaking the stereotypes of being a female engineer

09 February 2024

Babett is one of 9 engineers at the mechanical team at Interacoustics’ R&D department – but only one of three women. We talked to her about her own engineering career, and what it’s like to work in a field that is still very male dominated.

When Babett started to study engineering, she never had met a female engineer before. Her parents do not have an academic background and therefore they did not quite understand her choice. “My family was surprised to hear that I wanted to study engineering. They were concerned about how I would manage it and they didn’t know how they could support me,” Babett says.

Babett’s family were not only concerned that she would drop out and not be able to complete her studies, they were also worried about the long-term consequences. How would Babett – as a woman – cope with both a career in engineering and a family life? “When my father said ‘Who will hire you as a female engineer’, he did it because he was concerned that I would not have the same job opportunities as my male fellow students. He thought that at some point in time, I would have to choose between my family and my job,” she remembers.


Babett Kopfer.


Engineering is not only math

Talking to Babett, you can tell that she’s enthusiastic about her profession. A profession that was not on her radar at the time.

“I never thought about becoming an engineer back then as I wasn’t quite the math genius I expected you needed to be to become an engineer. What I didn’t know was that this can change quickly when you start using the fundamentals of science in a more practical approach,” Babett says.

It was not until completing her first education and working as a technical product designer that she discovered the diversity of tasks which make up a development process. In particular, she found out that engineering is not only about calculations.

“When I started to work as a Technical Designer, I realized that my colleagues were doing all kinds of tasks and it was not just about calculations and pure math all day long,” Babett explains and continues. “People contributed to the R&D process in many ways. Some were really creative, others took over the organizational tasks and made sure that we met the right requirements at the right time, and others again were very good at digging into calculations and simulations. It was interesting to see all those possibilities and work together with many interesting, smart people.”


A diverse team brings the best results

These new insights sparked Babett to expand her knowledge and education. She was drawn to the fact that all things we use in our daily life are developed by all kinds of engineers. She wanted to become one herself. “I was a bit concerned, but wanted to show myself that it was possible to complete my studies and get a job as an engineer,” she says.

Babett therefore took up the challenge and studied Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design as bachelor and after that a master’s in Integrated Design Engineering. At that time, theory and praxis finally came together: "I could suddenly see that I could use fundamental math in a practical way to craft new things. I had a completely new motivation to use my math skills compared to when I was at school,” she says. And despite all the concerns, she completed her studies, had an internship at LEGO, and was hired by Interacoustics in 2017.


Babett inspecting one of the enclosures she’s designed.


She’s now part of the Interacoustics R&D mechanical team where she designs the enclosures around the electronic parts of a product. An exciting process from first concepts over 3D prototypes to test and production preparation. When asked what it is like to work in a male-dominated field, she affirms that it does not matter what gender people have as long as they are enthusiastic about their work. However, she can clearly see the benefits of having a mixed team setup.

“We bring different competencies and values to the table,” she says. “Without stigmatizing, we can have quite diverse approaches to communication and problem solving. There are hard skills and soft skills within the job as engineer and we are differently attracted to those tasks. But instead of competing with each other, we should focus on the benefits from a more interdisciplinary way of working and challenging each other in a good way. That’s why it’s so important to have a diverse team. Not only when it comes to gender, but also when it comes to age, background, and more. It might sometimes be challenging to work together with people with different mindsets, but in my experience, it results in the best outcomes.”


How to get more girls to choose a career in science

When talking about jobs in science and gender, Babett thinks that society and workplaces have not completely overcome the old biases yet. “My father was afraid that I would need to work really hard as a woman to proof myself as an engineer, and he is probably not the only one who has that opinion. We need to support more diversity and give people the flexibility they need,” she says.

She also feels that if we want to make jobs in science more interesting, also for girls, we should provide equal opportunities for all. “Already in school, we need to show girls – and everyone else – more about the field of engineering. Not everyone has a role model to explain more about how science is being used to create everyday products. Engineering is not all only about math, there are so many interesting facets to being an engineer and working in science. So, there are endless opportunities in the field of engineering – for everyone,” she says.

“In my daily job, I get to work and have fun with interesting and smart people, and as an engineer – of any kind – you can be part of shaping the future. For me, those are already some great reasons for choosing a career in science and engineering,” Babett concludes.


Babett enjoying her work at her desk.
Charlotte Ellemose Sonne
Charlotte Ellemose Sonne is a Master of Linguistics and Communication (cand.ling.merc.), having graduated from Aarhus University in 2004. Before joining Interacoustics, Charlotte's working experience included, among other, a seven year stay at DONG Energy (now Ørsted) as a Language Specialist.

Published: 09 February 2024
Modified: 12 February 2024


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