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Never try to fit in, never put yourself down, you are different for a reason so please never ever think you have to fit into the mould that society has created for us- break that mould. - Chloe Sales

Only about 25 percent of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals are female. While women constitute almost 50% of the labor market, there are only 28% of women in STEM fields as opposed to 72% of men. The number of women in STEM fields has grown over the past years and keeps growing. Yet, ever since the origins of STEM fields in the age of enlightenment, these fields have been predominantly male. This gender imbalance is often referred to as the STEM gap.

Why is there a gender gap in STEM?

There are some possible causes for this large gap between the genders (not enough role models, sexism in the workplace, lack of advocacy in early education, etc.) , and understanding what causes the gender gap is vital in helping close it, but at we want to celebrate women who are breaking through these barriers and who are challenging the status quo by showing the world that they are just as competent as men.

In this feature we traveled across the Atlantic ocean to England to connect with Chloe Sales, an awarding winning professional, welding apprentice and female on a mission to get more girls into STEM. She shares her perspectives on innovation, collaboration and being a bad ass, confident mechanical artist!

Chloe Sales is an Apprentice Welder from Stoke on Trent College. She has been welding for almost 3 years and absolutely loves it. She attended college for 2 years to gain her qualifications, and has until October 2020 to finish her apprenticeship program. She has also completed a 12 month Aluminum Tig course in 5 months at Stafford College as an evening class..simply AMAZING!

Chloe has been visiting schools and colleges to educate and inform young females about herself and her career and how she was introduced to welding, also the reality that statistics show the divide in numbers between males and females in construction or engineering sectors. She is proud of the fact that this statistic is changing for the better, as more women are becoming known to have typically known male dominated jobs. She is very passionate about what she does, as Chloe believes that you are in a job for most of your adult life, if you have a job you enjoy, it’s not really work, and you jump out of bed to go there every morning. She also thinks that it is so important to reach outside of your comfort zone as you never know what you will find, and what you can excel at. By her words, “I really hope my story will inspire others to be different”!

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?

Chloe: I got into welding quite randomly, long story short I was a carer for my nana, she became really poorly and it was decided after I had quit my full time job as a community carer, to care for my nana, she went into a care home so I had to find a job. I applied for a warehouse role as I didn’t want to go back into caring, and whilst there I asked to let me have a go at welding. Turns out I was quite good, so they offered me an apprenticeship, where I also worked with NSEGTA so I could gain more qualifications. As I had never done anything to do with engineering or welding before I had to meet with my college tutor and tell him about myself and why I should be allowed to do the course with no experience. I must have proved myself because it was him who nominated me for apprentice of the year, I also received the highest marks in the class for one exam I did, and every single lad on that course had been doing it longer than me.

Q: We believe that collaboration is the key for long term value creation. As you are starting your career, how are you applying this concept?

Chloe: As stated, I have been going to schools and colleges to promote women in engineering. A couple of them I sorted out by emailing and asking if I could go in, and one of the schools heard about me and contacted my work place so I could do a talk there which I was so chuffed with! I have also recently become an ambassador for Young Enterprise which means I will be doing talks with them to a much larger audience at schools etc. I have also – whilst on furlough, been involved in some webinars with Next Gen Makers highlighting the stereotypes of women in engineering and also my story and my views on how we can actively change this. I also contacted BBC Radio stoke just after Christmas to see if they would share my story, and John Acres came to my work place to do an interview with me that was broadcast on the radio and a little video that was shared on social media.

Q: How are you using innovation in your career/apprenticeship?

Chloe: I think with anything in life, you have to adapt to change. Innovation is commonly used in engineering as things always change, a new idea is always being thought of, and many factors come into change, such as cost, time and quality etc. For an example, a new software system being used at work, we all had to learn it as to start and finish a job you must log onto the system to tell it that the order is being completed. Also, at Stafford college they had a new tig machine, which I used and learned how to programme the settings etc. I think every welder I work with is getting use to the change of a female being there, the only difference is purely gender, as I am just as strong if not stronger than some of them, I like a hands on job and I work well under pressure.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the welding discipline?

Chloe: Metal always wins, so you have to respect that. In order to manipulate your metal into the desired shape or form various stages of heat from the welding, and then the cooling or tempering of the metal. Certain clamps and spacers are used to create the welding joint required. I mainly mig weld at work which I am very confident with, I love seeing a job through from start to finish. The whole set up I find interesting, from earthing up your bench to changing the wire feed and actually welding your work I find so interesting as to how you can create anything from metal and a good imagination.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone starting in the STEM discipline?

Chloe: My advice for anyone wanting to start a STEM career is to believe in yourself, never listen to anyone putting you off or saying they don’t think this job is for you, I had it off my family and friends and if I would have listened, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Have confidence, like serious confidence, if you can believe in yourself then that’s half the battle done. If you are feeling a bit different or that you don’t fit in, don’t have many friends etc., then you’re my kind of person! Never try to fit in, never put yourself down, your different for a reason so please never ever think you have to fit into the mould that society has created for us- break that mould. Break all the stereotypes that may come your way, have thick skin and put 100% in. You get what you give.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

Chloe: I am an over thinker, so anything and everything keeps me up at night. The remaining work on my apprenticeship as I’m so close to finishing, what courses I want to do next, what kind of path do I want to go down, do I want to excel in a certain area or gain as many qualifications as I can learning everything possible. Any ideas I’ve had during the day, how I can further them and bring them to life.

One common thought of mine is owning my own business or starting my own welding school. I’m very passionate about helping young teenagers/adults, I wasn’t the best student at school and I did get in trouble a lot. Looking back the only class I was good at was art, being creative. I think many children at school struggle with things I did as only a handful of student will go into a career that you learned about at school. I didn’t have a clue what welding was until I walked into that warehouse at 21 years old. I’m nearly 25 and like I say, thing are changing for the better now, so if I can do anything during my career it will be to educate and inform young people of their future and what’s out there.

All our paths are different, so choose one that suits YOU!

Chloe displays the true essence of being a She challenges the status quo by being a female leader in the STEM industry, she volunteers to prepare the next generation of up and coming professionals and she has a creative yet very disciplined approach to life and her craft. Chloe, you have a special gift and we are excited to watch you excel into your purpose. Congratulations, you are a certified!

Contact Information: LinkedIn, Chloe Sales

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