The female Dyson engineer who's helping clean up a male-dominated industry

Veronica Alanis has a message for all the young women out there: "Don't ever let anyone tell you can't do anything." 

The Dyson Advanced Insight engineer is in New Zealand launching products that have been four years in the making. 

Alanis has helped propel the global company, known for its bagless vacuums, into the beauty industry with the new Supersonic hairdryer, and the much anticipated Airwrap styler. 

"It's a mission we have in the Dyson hair category to look after women's and men's health," she told Newshub. 

"It's all about creating something that improves people's lives, even in a small way, that's what makes it exciting." 

Originally from Mexico, Alanis travelled to the UK to study MSc in Sustainable Design at the University of Edinburgh. She started working for Dyson in 2016 as a designer engineer. 

Now in 2019, she is one of the company's leading advanced insight engineers. 

"If you asked me four years ago when I started working at Dyson I would be in New Zealand launching this product I wouldn't have believed it." 

But it's no secret the industry is dominated by males, not just in New Zealand but worldwide. 

Alanis says there's still a stigma against women in the industry. 

She says women are generally put off by the male-dominated factor because they are afraid they are not smart enough to compete, or feel like they don't have enough knowledge of things that were traditionally perceived to be 'male jobs'. 

What I've realised working in engineering is it's all about not being afraid to make mistakes, just ask questions.

"At Dyson, we're encouraged to make mistakes and learn through experience, as a woman that doesn't make us any different." 

By nearly every measure, women outperform men at school and university, generally completing their study at high levels than men. 

But still the hangover remains from a time where women were encouraged to study what were once considered "feminine" subjects, namely the arts. 

Alanis says women tend to handicap themselves.

"In the UK where Dyson is based, generally in the industry, there are only 15 percent of female engineers working in the industry. It's not because engineering companies don't want to hire them, generally female students don't pursue engineering degrees," she says.

We as women are always pushed to conceal things. Don't let your dress get stained. Don't let your hair move out of place. Just pretend that everything is perfect and nice.

"I want to shift that mindset. You don't need to know everything. You don't need to look 'pretty'. You don't need to be quiet. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions, because that's when you learn." 

In recent years there has been some improvement. 

Women have started heading into subjects like science, law, accounting and engineering. 

In New Zealand, last year the number of female engineering students at the University of Auckland rose from 407 to 900.

That can be attributed to not only a change of thinking in society, but Government and private company led-initiatives. 

Alanis says initiatives like The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology is helping change the stigma. 

"This is essentially James Dyson's own university where he helps people pursue science and engineering degrees and this year 40 percent of the cohort were female, so we are getting this message across," says Alanis. 

"I would love to see more people, female or male, pursue a career in this industry." 

But she knows there's still a long way to go. In New Zealand women still make up less than a quarter of engineering students nationwide, in an industry that has a major skills shortage currently. 

Alanis hopes for more diversity in the industry and wants to empower women out there to consider a career in STEM. 

"I was really afraid of maths in high school. I never thought I was good enough," Alanis says. 

"I was lucky that I had an amazing professor, a woman. She showed me instead of running away from things you're afraid of, if you just face it and put effort and hard work, you can come out alright. That's what I did, and today I'm an engineer." 

I just feel really lucky. I never thought I would ever be here in New Zealand. That's the result of believing in yourself.

And that's exactly what Alanis hopes to do here in New Zealand. 

Another purpose of her trip is to judge the New Zealand entries for the James Dyson Award, and international award that challenges aspiring young engineers to create an invention that challenges aspiring young engineers to create an invention that solves problems.