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Surviving mechanical engineering as a female student in Malaysia

Published by Afterschool.my on Apr 20, 2016, 04:50 pm

As a student of one of the engineering programmes with the lowest female to male ratio, Kai Hui from the University of Southampton shares her tips and insight!


Every time someone asks me “What are you currently studying?” I would nonchalantly reply: Mechanical Engineering.

The immediate response is always a wide eyed exclamation, “OMG! Why?”

I usually answer honestly, that my passion is in physics and math and I yearn to create and innovate. But after a while, it starts to become bothersome.

Why should my answer be any different from any other person? Why don’t they ask the same question when a guy says he is studying mechanical engineering?

I believe there exist a lot of stereotypical notions about this course that would discourage a girl who would otherwise have joined and loved mechanical engineering.

1. Are women strong enough for practical work?


The truth is, 60% of my practical work involves me sitting in front of the computer, either doing simulation/computer-aided design (CAD) drawings/programming. (No strength needed, just press the mouse and keyboard!).

The other 40% would be very simple fabrication jobs such as screwing bolts and nuts/drilling, milling and 3D printing which is actually done by the machine.

Throughout the 3 years of studying I have never been forced to do heavy duty tasks that I am incapable of.

So the answer to this question is a yes, only because you don’t really need it.

2. Will a woman be at disadvantage as compared to her male peers?


In every single way, the answer is NO.

Every individual has their strengths and weaknesses.

The only difference between male and female is their internal biological function which I do not think has any effect on their suitability for this course.

If anything, a woman who is empowered and able to go against gender stereotypes imposed by the society to study mechanical engineering usually have very high determination and passion in their work.

3. Will it not be weird to be in this male dominated environment?

Architectural planning team

Academically, I have never felt ‘weird’ or out of place for the course.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with electronics, building a robot, cutting wood, programming and etc. and have never thought these things were meant only for boys.

I have to admit that at the very beginning, being surrounded by an overwhelming number of guys can be a bit intimidating and lonely.

But after a very short amount of time I got used to it and began to really enjoy their company and began to develop a broader range of interests.

4. Is this the right choice for me?


To prospective female students: if you have considered doing this course, ignore all the discouraging comments from parents, friends, teachers or relatives.

If you love math, physics and a lot of fun and innovative hands-on projects like me, this course is highly suitable for you!

Read more about Mechanical Engineering here.

Afterschool.my encourages youngsters to share and write about their experiences and opinions. Tell us your unique life as a student and send it to [email protected] if you wish to be published!

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