I am the youngest of the Waterman Infrastructure & Environment Limited Board Directors, and more importantly in the context of National Women in Engineering Day, I am the first and only woman! I have been in the industry for nearly 20 years, and have worked across a broad range of service lines within the environmental engineering sector during that time. My role now is to run the Southern Environment division, which sometimes seems less about engineering than people and financial management. Nonetheless, it still gives me a buzz!
I have seen progress made in attracting more women to the engineering sector, but it is clear that a lot of work still needs to be done to make the industry more inclusive.
What made you choose this industry?
I am an environmental scientist by training and I wanted to join a profession which helped to make the world a more sustainable place but which kept business and commerciality at its heart. To me, the best way to instigate change is to work alongside businesses to educate them and encourage them to change for the better. Development is a phenomenon which is almost unstoppable so, for me it is more productive to help achieve the best outcome possible than to fight against it.
How is it to be the only female on the board?
I don’t often think of myself as the only female in the room and I hope my fellow directors don’t see that either. Sometimes I can come at issues from a different angle than the other Board Directors, but for the most part we are a group of individuals who work effectively together to strive for the same goals. Most of us face the same issues on a day-to-day basis and gender rarely (if ever) comes into it – except for my disappearance on two maternity leaves of course, and perhaps my occasional choice of impractical footwear!
What is most rewarding about working in this industry?
Rewards come in different shapes and sizes in this industry. It can be anything from the thrill of winning an exciting job, to the satisfaction of putting the phone down to a happy client, changing a design team’s mind about a particular course of action, or seeing one of our buildings win awards. Often, the most rewarding thing about working within an engineering consultancy is seeing the legacy we leave as part of our day-to-day workload – the vast array of amazing buildings which have been constructed all over the world.
What has been one of the most interesting achievements?
It’s not necessarily that interesting to most people, but to me continuing the progression of my career since having children is a really important thing. In fact, I was promoted to the Board while I was expecting my first child. I believe this sent a firm message to me, and to others in the industry that the glass ceiling was smashed – it was about my capabilities and ambitions and nothing else. I’m so thrilled now to be part of an organisation which actively encourages its female staff to continue their career ambitions whilst raising a family.
What would you say to women who are considering a career in engineering?
Go for it! Engineering is becoming more inclusive all the time and there is no physical or intellectual reason to stop a woman being a huge success in the industry.
The environmental engineering team in Waterman is so evenly balanced in terms of its male to female ratios, particularly at senior management levels, that it can sometimes be easy to forget how under-represented women are in engineering and in the wider corporate world. It isn’t until I go to a networking event or an external meeting where I suddenly realise that there is still a bit of a mountain to climb.
Are you involved in any organisations/initiatives that aims to attract women to our industry?
Yes, I’m really passionate about this as I think it is vital to set an example and be a role model for young people.
I participate in Inspiring Women, a charitable organisation which helps connect professional women with school age girls to help encourage them to take on traditionally male career routes.