Engineer with a focus on soft values

After 18 months at the National Film Actors Academy of Denmark, 24-year-old Frederikke Therkelsen has returned to Herning to embark on an engineering degree. Now she is encouraging more women to explore the possibilities of the technical and science degree programmes offered in Herning. .

Almost three months ago, Frederikke Therkelsen arrived at 15 Birk Centerpark in Herning to embark on the Bachelor of Engineering programme in Global Management and Manufacturing - commonly referred to as the GMM. 

“My mum can’t even pronounce the name of the programme yet, but she and the rest of my family and friends are really happy that I’ve come home,” says the 24-year-old engineering student with a grin. Often people will ask her to explain what the programme is all about. 

“Most people ask me what I’ll become when I’ve finished my studies, and this can be a bit difficult to explain. You can influence things a lot since the programme covers so many topics,” says Frederikke Therkelsen, who would like to work with people once she has completed her studies and has gained the title of engineer. 

Engineers - so much more than windmills

Traditionally, the engineering programmes have been highly male dominated, and the programmes are still struggling with this image. However, according to Frederikke Therkelsen, there is in fact no reason for why this image should exist. 

“To me, men and women are no different in this context and I don’t believe in male and female professions either. We can do whatever we want, and I want to be an engineer,” she says and points out that the students in her class have very different interests. Some are very interested in technical subjects and others - including Frederikke Therkelsen herself - are more interested in the softer values. 

“In fact, engineers have so many other skills apart from making windmills, which is often used to exemplify what we do. Companies such as Søstrene Grene and LEGO are also employing engineers. As engineers, we have very different skills and fields of specialisation. I like working with people and management. I’d like to work with people’s competences and create the best teams and opportunities for collaboration. This degree programme allows me do so,” Frederikke Therkelsen explains. She has found out for herself how important it is to have a good leader and how detrimental poor leadership can be.  

More female students

The increased focus of politicians and educational institutions on attracting more female students to the technical and science degree programmes has altered the gender distribution slightly. And this development appears to continue even though there is still a vast majority of male students on the programmes. 

“There is still a majority of boys, but a positive development is definitely taking place,” says Frederikke Therkelsen. And this development is not just important for the educational institutions, but also very much for the business community and thus for graduate employment. 

“I think I’ll be in a very strong position once I’ve finish my studies. As a woman I can offer something different than my male colleagues,” says the 24-year-old GMM student. 

This attitude is shared by Mette Højborg, who is the director of Culture and Business in Holstebro Municipality and a board member at the AUHE MidtVest’s Support Fund. 

“Without a doubt it’s very important that more young people embark on a technical or science degree - and this goes for both boys and girls. The previous recruitment efforts of these programmes have mainly targeted boys, so just by focusing on girls as well, the target group has doubled. This is bound to increase the number of students and this will benefit the business community enormously in the future,” Mette Højborg explains. 

“Girls have other skills than boys, and it is obvious that a healthy mix between the genders will only serve to strengthen the business community,” she continues.   

Not just maths and technical topics

24-year-old Frederikke Therkelsen is convinced that we will see a lot more female students on the degree programmes in the future. 

“Global Management and Manufacturing opens up so many possibilities. I’m sure that if more girls in upper secondary school knew the options, the gender distribution on the programmes would be a lot more equal. You’re able to influence your degree - naturally within a fixed framework. I’ve chosen to focus on the softer values and management, while others focus on the more technical aspects. The GMM is also a unique programme because students gain work experience within their field of interest during their studies. This means that when you graduate, you’ll have the equivalent of almost two years of work experience. Companies love this,” enthuses Frederikke Therkelsen. She is aware that there are far less female students than male students, but this does not deter her. She is certain that this trend is about to change. 

“Sometimes I do think about the fact that there aren’t as many girls as boys, but I’m also convinced that things are changing. Today we’re 11 girls. Five to 10 years ago, there would probably only have been one girl on this kind of degree programme. I’m sure we will see lots more girls in the future. They just need to realise how many exciting things you can do as an engineer, and that it’s much more than just maths and technical topics,” concludes Frederikke Therkelsen.