Don’t just fly, soar: Why diversity is taking off for women in engineering at British Airways – Eleanor Levitt, Graduate Engineer

Eleanor-Levitt - British Airways

Eleanor Levitt is a graduate engineer at British Airways. She is a champion on the British Airways Diversity in Engineering programme and a STEM ambassador. Eleanor studied aerospace engineering at the University of Liverpool. 

Eleanor-Levitt - British Airways

Eleanor Levitt

“…This is not an issue that will change overnight and we would like to tackle a range of diversity issues. The plan is to persevere with organising different types of events and grow our network of affiliates. I definitely see this as being a marathon, not a sprint…”

Eleanor, please can you tell us about your career to date and what got you interested in engineering?

I started by enjoying maths and physics but not really knowing what to do with it. I started watching aircraft investigation during college, and became fascinated by aircraft. It was then that I was introduced to the career-path of an engineer. If I’m honest, I didn’t even know what it was before that. However, from that point on I was hooked and never looked back.

I found out I had place on the British Airways graduate scheme the day after the interview. I was on the train with my mum and sister when I got the call and I burst into tears. I was just so happy!

What does your role involve on a day to day basis at British Airways?

As part of the British Airways Engineering graduate scheme you rotate around different areas in the Engineering department such as power plant, structures and operations every three months. Therefore the last year and a half has been a constant stream of new exciting experiences with a diverse array of work and the opportunity to work with new aircraft and new technology.

Now I am based in the cabin design department where I hope to develop my career. On a day-to-day basis, we are supporting internal departments at the airline to help deliver cabin-design work across the entire fleet. We offer an engineering insight in meetings, writing technical documents to certify modifications and new products into the cabin, creating digital design drawings and so much more.

While the work is varied, safety is always the first priority at the airline.

What have been the highlights of your work in your current role since you joined in 2014?

Eleanor-Levitt - British Airways

Eleanor alongside other British Airways graduates

One highlight was the two months at the beginning of the programme I spent gaining hands-on experience with the aircraft in the hangars and terminals. After spending four years studying aircraft, it was such a joy to be able to work with them up close. Fortunately I still get to go down to the hangars regularly as part of my day job.

I have been trusted with a lot of responsibility at British Airways while always having a full complement of support from my colleagues. There really is a nurturing environment for young engineers here.

Please can you tell us about your work on Diversity in Engineering?

Diversity in Engineering [British Airways’ diversity programme] has tremendous support at the airline, especially with senior management.

I believe the problem stems from there not being enough diversity in the talent pipeline in the first place – it’s this which the group plans to tackle by informing and inspiring younger people that engineering is a viable career for everyone.

We have had a few stand-out accomplishments so far: In February this year, some colleagues and I attended a joint diversity event with Rolls-Royce to share our experiences with them. A British Airways female pilot also spoke about her experience and role there too.

We also have three colleagues who take part in a mentor scheme with female engineering students at Brunel University.

In March this year, we invited 50 local female students to take part in engineering activities and have a tour of our engineering base. We also had support from our Director of Engineering, Andy Kerswill, General Manager of Customer Excellence, Joanna James and Short-haul Fleet Chief, Helen McCarry, among others, who presented at the event.

This is not an issue that will change overnight and we would like to tackle a range of diversity issues. The plan is to persevere with organising different types of events and grow our network of affiliates. I definitely see this as being a marathon, not a sprint.

What is coming up next for you and British Airways?

Currently I am working towards my certification as a technical engineer and a certified compilation engineer while making sure I have sound technical grounding. I would really like to be an expert in the field of cabin design.

The opportunities at British Airways are limitless so I am really excited about my future.

 

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