Emily Braithwaite is a Curious Minds STEM Coach and works as a Project Engineer on a mine site in Orange, NSW.
The opinion of women in mine sites has improved significantly, but there are still some people who are of the opinion that women are only there to fulfill a quota. I have never found this to be the case. Most women are [also] raised with expectations of empathy and communication, so tend to do more than their fair share of administrative labour in male-centric workforces, regardless of their seniority.
From a young age, Emily had a strong curiosity in STEM and Engineering that was encouraged by the people around her.
My dad is a mechanical engineer in the aluminium industry, so I had plenty of Lego and electronics kits growing up. I think the biggest impact was from my mum though. She always encouraged curiosity and would spend an enormous amount of time answering every question I had as a child. That curiosity is a HUGE part of STEM.
I’ve always loved and excelled at Maths, so I was told it was a good fit. But I think there are plenty of STEM careers for maths-keen people. What really makes me love engineering is the problem-solving aspect! And interacting with different people and disciplines.
“Be curious! Ask all your questions, anyone who's ever told you that the only dumb question is the one that isn't asked has nailed it on the head!”
I chose mechanical engineering because I wanted to make a difference, specifically in terms of sustainability. The mining industry isn’t going anywhere – how else would we get the material to make an ever-increasing number of solar panels & batteries. But there is a lot to do to make it more sustainable, and as a mechanical engineer I get to make design, operation and maintenance choices that bring us closer to a circular economy.
“Seek out opportunities. So many exist, and so many people want to share their experiences with you. Mentoring, camps, scholarships, courses - they're all there to develop your interest and skills, so try it out.”
Having had many impactful people mentor her throughout her years as a student, Emily wanted to become a STEM Coach for Curious Minds so she could give back to current students, whose enthusiasm and different sets of learning styles and interests make her role fulfilling.
I had a mentor as part of ENGage, and Jayne showed me a completely different avenue of engineering – [it’s] always valuable to keep an open mind. Mentoring STEM students has made an impact on me for sure. Seeing the transformation our industry still requires, educating myself on inclusivity and topical issues, it’s all beneficial. There were so many people in my life who gave up some of their time to encourage and mentor me, so giving back wasn’t a question of if but how.
This interview was developed in partnership with 3M.