Sophie Tang is known around Tottenham and the London food scene for her amazing Asian street food. But something lesser known about Sophie is that she has been an engineer at TFL for over ten years. Whilst the number of female engineers are slowly increasing in the UK, it is still very low; according to a Women Engineering Statistics survey in 2017, only 11% of engineers in the UK were women. The TFL gender pay gap report 2018, states that just 23.5% of their workforce are women. Rachel Ho caught up with Sophie to find out a little bit about her experience as a minority in this profession, and also as an example to inspire other women to pursue paths that have not traditionally been seen as female roles.
Where did you grow up and what did your parents do?
I grew up in Wood Green, North London. My mum worked for Haringey Council and my dad was a cable jointer for TFL on night shifts.
Describe your relationship to Tottenham.
I’ve lived here for ten years now. In the last few years since I’ve started Tangy's Tasty Stuff (Sophie's Asian street food business) I’ve become more involved with the community and made awesome friends. I regard it as home.
Photo Supplied: Sophie on the job at TFL
What led you to become an engineer for TFL?
I sort of fell into it. My dad used to work there and said there were entry level positions available, so I applied and got trained on the job.
TFL also do apprentice schemes, which if I had known I’d of probably went down that route.
Tell us about some of the interesting things you've had to do as an engineer and challenges you've had to face.
I work in the signals department on track at nights so I see all sorts of weird and wonderful things.
I helped in the upgrade works at Edgware Road re-wiring the antiquated signalling systems.
I’ve help rip out old signal equipment and replace it on track.
Photo Supplied: One of the parts of the track Sophie has worked on.
Working in a very male dominated environment can have its challenges. For example, when I first joined TFL I was meant to be based at Leyton, but they didn’t have female facilities there so had to start at Acton instead.
That was a number of years ago now, things have changed and there are a growing number of female apprentices coming through now within that side of the business.
What advice would you give to women who want to get into engineering?
I would go in via an apprenticeship program so you can get paid while you’re learning. It's also a good way to make friends.
It still can be a bit of a 'boy's club', but if you’re good at what you do there’s nothing to stop you.
Photo Supplied: Sophie with her TFL colleagues.
As a woman, how do you think Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change?
Tottenham has been through many changes since I’ve lived here. The riots for one was a turning point, but people came together more in the aftermath.
With the regeneration happening there’s only been changes for the better in my opinion.
I would like to see less violence on the streets. Only recently another young person lost their lives in Tottenham. Hopefully in time this will change
Favourite thing to do in Tottenham?
I really like going to the local bars and pubs and the Tottenham Social pop ups at Craving and visiting the Sunday Tottenham Green Market on Sundays.
When Sophie is not busy working to help make sure London's transport is running, she can be found serving her delicious Asian cuisine with Tangy's Tasty Stuff: