International Women’s Day: Spotlight on UTC Swindon’s Principal

Tuesday, 08 March 2016

Angela Barker-Dench

Engineers are increasingly becoming vital to society and the economy but the sector has typically been male-dominated with few opportunities for women.

The Government are continuing their efforts to encourage more young girls to study STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and consider careers involving subjects such as engineering. Despite an increase in recent years, the representation of women working as engineers and computing professionals remains low and the gender gap in these particular sectors is among the worst across business.

Bucking that trend is Angela Barker-Dench, Principal of the University Technical College in Swindon (UTC Swindon) of which Oxford Brookes University is a co-sponsor, who has enjoyed a successful career in engineering since the 1980s.

When I started out in engineering it was very male-orientated and rare to see women in the sector. Now I think there is a wealth of opportunities for women in industry and education and I am very keen to promote these and see them grow further.

Angela Barker-Dench, Principal of the University Technical College in Swindon (UTC Swindon)

At the beginning of this year Angela proudly hosted the first Women in Industry event at UTC Swindon a forum for promoting and supporting women who work in the industrial and engineering industries founded by the Western Route staff at Network Rail.

Principal Angela Barker-Dench said: “I was honoured to host Network Rail’s first Women in Industry event at UTC Swindon in January, and hope that by sharing my career journey I was able to inspire other women to seize the opportunities out there. Inspiring more young people, particularly young women, to get into engineering and science has been a focus for UTC Swindon since we opened in 2014.” 

Angela began her engineering career in 1980 when she started an apprenticeship in electrical and electronic engineering with General Electric Company (GEC). She became interested in design engineering and was sponsored by GEC through college and university.
In the late 1980s, while working full-time at GEC, she took up an evening role as a visiting engineering lecturer at the Birmingham Metropolitan College (formerly Matthew Boulton College).

Following her Deputy Principal roles at Berkshire College of Agriculture and Capel Manor College in Enfield she joined UTC Swindon, bringing with her strong, inspirational leadership and a wealth of experience in vocational education, higher education and industry. 

She continues: “I am very proud of my career and a happy mum of two teenagers. When I started out in engineering it was very male-orientated and rare to see women in the sector. Now I think there is a wealth of opportunities for women in industry and education and I am very keen to promote these and see them grow further.”

UTC Swindon offers pupils the opportunity to learn specialist technical skills, with hands-on learning experiences and close working with local employers. For more information visit www.utcswindon.co.uk.

International Women's Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Pledge for Parity is the theme this year, encouraging everyone to make a pledge to take action and help accelerate gender parity more quickly. More information is available at www.internationalwomensday.com.

Oxford Brookes’ Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment is celebrating International Women’s Day with a special event supporting the advancement of women and highlighting inspirational staff and students from the Faculty.

It forms part of their work to support the objectives of the Athena SWAN Charter as they work towards a Bronze Award. The Athena SWAN Charter Awards from the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) have been running since 2005, recognising the commitment of the higher education sector to address gender inequalities, tackle the unequal representation of women in science and to improve career progression for female academics.

Oxford Brookes University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze Award awarded in 2013 and is currently working on a submission for a new award under the expanded Charter. In May last year the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences was awarded a departmental Athena SWAN Silver Award.