WHEN Professor Tahseen Jafry took up her post as an engineering lecturer in 2003 she admits she felt “like a fish out of water”.

Like all universities the engineering departments was a male-dominated environment and she often found herself as the only woman in the room.

In addition to finding it difficult to acclimatise to her new surroundings at Glasgow Caledonian University, she also felt she had to prove her worth every step of the way.

“Starting out, I had to work hard to make people aware of the contribution I was making because I was operating in a challenging environment,” she said.

“The journey to professor may have been easier for a man in a suit. It is about having integrity, drive, motivation, enthusiasm and willpower to progress.

“You have to have guts to fight a system that women have been up against and to challenge those who hold positions of authority.”

Despite progress on equality in recent years, Ms Jafry still finds herself as the only woman in the room when representing the university at industry events.

“This is particularly evident within the research sector in areas where female voices are so important, yet alarmingly underrepresented,” she said.

READ MORE: Glass ceiling for female academics persisting at Scottish universities

“There are now more female academics within my own institution and I believe there has been a deliberate drive to get more of a gender balance, particularly within areas like engineering.

“I hope the processes, pathways and conversations between men and women improve the experience for female academics and for women in all sectors.

“To establish real change we need to create a more nurturing environment and acknowledge the competing roles some women have as the primary caretakers within the family.

"We must not only adopt strategies, but we must practise flexibility and provide structures to support talent.

"To this end, I believe that the discussions that need to be had in academia and, as a society, should go beyond women.

"To change the system, we need to evolve the conversation to include our male counterparts because that is how we will get a more balanced dialogue about the barriers some experience to career progression and, in this way, we will derive better processes – for me, it’s not just about women, it’s about men and women working and talking together."

Ms Jafry went on to pay tribute to Glasgow Caledonian for the support they have given her.

She said: "When faced with barriers as an academic, as a female engineer, I have navigated around these and aligned myself with a supportive institution and people from within the institution.

"Having a strong mentor, which for me was our principal, enabled me to access support and encouragement, without which I don’t think I would be where I am today."