Environmental protection key to encouraging women into HVAC&R careers

By Charlotte McLaughlin, Jun 23, 2017, 12:34 3 minute reading

On International Women in Engineering Day Ann Flanagan of Star Refrigeration explains how working with climate-friendly technologies can be a good hook to get the younger generation interested in refrigeration as a career.

Scottish-based system manufacturer Star Refrigeration held an event on 13 June celebrating female engineers, in Thomas’ Primary School in Neilston, Glasgow, UK in advance of International Women in Engineering Day taking place today, 23 June.

Children at the school event heard some of the reasons why they should choose a career in engineering.

Ann Flanagan, a consultant engineer from Star who took part in the local school event, said: “The kids were really excited when I explained about the environmental aspect of my job, as it's something they learn in school and they can get their heads around.”

The kids were really excited when I explained about the environmental aspect of my job, as it's something they learn in school and they can get their heads around.
– Ann Flanagan, Star Refrigeration 

Star Refrigeration, with its with strong expertise in ammonia heat pumps and low-charge ammonia systems, is helping the industry reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Flanagan – who specialises in business development for energy management systems at Star – added: “We talked about how to improve the future and being energy efficient in the refrigeration industry."

Claire Syme, another Star Refrigeration engineer who took part in the day, also referred to the fact that engineers tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. 

“You could help fight climate change by designing environmentally-friendly engineering solutions to improve our lives. You could join a team that designs driverless vehicles. [...] Whatever you’re into, there are lots of engineering opportunities to choose from,” Syme said.

Flanagan also explained how important refrigeration is for our daily lives.

“Food and beverages production, the data centres necessary for social media and the internet, medicines production to cure illnesses and leisure activities including ice skating and curling, all require some form of mechanical cooling!,” Flanagan said.

International Women in Engineering Day is held annually on 23rd June to celebrate women’s achievements in the industry and encourage more girls to pursue an engineering career. Last year over 550 events were held on the day to recognise the occasion around the world and in the UK, and 350 UK schools got involved. 

This year, the event saw women throughout the world being celebrated for their achivements in engineering in events in New Zealand, Nigeria and Australia. 

Not plain sailing

Still only 9% of the UK engineering workforce is female according to research by the UK Institution of Engineering and Technology. Encouraing more women in engineering would not only result in a better gender balance, but also help briding important skill shortages.

Flanagan did not really consider a career in refrigeration till a chance conversation with a neighbor when she was at school

“The neighbour, who was studying engineering at the time, [...] got me interested in studying engineering [...]. I was thinking about dentistry at the time,” she told ammonia21.com.

“I think for most young girls it’s the same: they just don’t consider doing engineering as a career,” she added.

Flanagan took a career break after a while working as an engineer, to have four children (two girls, two boys) and to open up subway shops in Sligo, Ireland. She said she was grateful to Star Refrigeration for welcoming her back. 

“After being away from Star Refrigeration for some time […] I got in touch with them again when we moved back to Glasgow, [and] they welcomed me back,” she said, showing that it is possible to keep a balance between family life and a successful professional career. 

She now specialises in business development for energy management systems specifically developed for refrigeration plants.

By Charlotte McLaughlin

Jun 23, 2017, 12:34

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