A MELKSHAM-based engineer hopes to inspire other women to follow in her footsteps and bridge the gender gap in the industry.

As part of International Women in Engineering Day today (June 23), Leesa Kingman, who works at Knorr-bremse in Bowerhill as a circuit board designer, hopes to cast a light on why young girls should get into science, technology, engineering or maths industries - and prove the dwindling statistics wrong.

In the UK, only nine per cent of the engineering workforce are women with only six per cent registered engineers and technicians being female- astonishingly the lowest levels across Europe. Despite this, engineering is second to medicine in securing graduates full time work and salaries.

Alongside her role in the rail vehicle systems company, Mrs Kingman is paving the way for other women in the industry and calling on key stakeholders to proactively tackle this gender imbalance.

The 40-year-old said: “Growing up, I was always interested in maths but I didn’t know what I could do with it. It wasn’t until I was in my last year of GCSEs that I did a work experience placement at Oxford Brooks University and I thought the work they were doing was quite interesting.

“Back then, you didn’t have career advisors, you just took on things you thought were interested in so I followed this path.

“At the time, I didn’t realise it was unusual to be interested in engineering so it was when I got to university in Sussex and saw that there was only four girls on my course of 200 I was quite surprised."

While she admits her career in engineering has been mostly positive, she believes more needs to be done to raise awareness of engineering as a viable career route for women at the early stages - something which International Women in Engineering Day aims to achieve.

Having faced her fair share of sexism in the workplace, including being told in her early career to ‘go back to the kitchen where she belongs’ by senior male colleagues, Mrs Kingsman believes more support should be put in place to ensure talented women stay in the sector.

As well as juggling being a mum, Mrs Kingsman, who lives in Midsomer Norton, also dedicates her time to speaking to pupils in schools as an official STEM ambassador.

She added: “A lot of university courses are filled up with international students which is great but if you look at the amount of home-grown engineers, the number is not high at all.

“When I go into schools and do chats, one thing that I'm always surprised at is how the girls want to be hairdressers and the boys want to be police officers or firemen so it was interesting at how that outlook is already programmed into children at a young age.

“Children look around them and see a phone, an iPad or even a computer and assume it just works but they don’t look past that at how it was built.

“Engineering is such a rewarding and diverse industry to work in and it covers so many different areas. From cosmetics and looking at chemical engineering to electrical engineering, it is such a wide area that you can get involved in.”