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Inspiring women into civil engineering must begin at school

15 June 2020

Mimi Nwosu is an Assistant Concrete Engineer with Sir Robert McAlpine.  She was recently awarded the accolade of ICE London Rising Star. Here she discusses how inspiring women to join the industry must begin with school curriculums.

Inspiring women into civil engineering must begin at school
Assistant Concrete Engineer with Sir Robert McAlpine, Mimi-Isabella Nwosu

Like many women we spoke to for INWED, Mimi believes a more diverse workforce increases innovation and creative thinking. She also believes that more female role models are needed within the industry to inspire a younger generation.

Inspiring through education

“Engineering is extremely practical and needs innovative and creative thinkers to solve world issues. There is still a stigma attached to engineering as being a career for men. We need to do more to show the variety of roles within engineering. I complete numerous STEM Ambassador activities and attend all-girls schools seminars. I always use one of the female attendees’ interests and link them to an engineering role.

"For example, I used a young girl’s interest in horses. I spoke to her about my friend who also loves horses and is a product design engineer and designs bespoke horse carriages. This gave her the impetus to investigate further.

I became interested in civil engineering as a career after I was invited to a lecture by chance and fell in love with the practicalities of solving world problems and helping people. After that lecture I decided to change course and university and study civil engineering. So teachers who inspire young people to take an interest in the issues that concern the profession really can make a difference.

“We need to make engineering more relatable to all women, no matter their interests. This needs to start from a young age. There is a lot embedded into the culture that still screams, ‘engineering isn’t for girls’.

"The industry needs to closely collaborate with schools, colleges and universities in order to exert a stronger influence on the curriculum, linking real-world problems to what is taught at all levels, We need to highlight the different routes into engineering. The industry and the educational curriculum should directly link, early participation to engage young women and girls from an early age to the world of engineering."

Creating female role models in the industry

Mimi Isabella Nwosu

“I am a big supporter of the phrase, ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’. Organisations and men need to support women in their organisations to reach managerial, chief engineer, director and board-level positions.

"There needs to be more role models in the industry and they need to be made visible. Many organisations provide mentorship schemes, some including reverse mentoring which I think is great. An organisation is made up of people and those at the top need to understand their employees in order to achieve success.

“We all need allies to reach the equality, diversity and inclusion we seek in the industry. This is no different for women in engineering, we all need to pull together to close gaps, retain and diversify talent."

How we can achieve sustainability within the industry

"Engineers play an important role in sustainability and sustainable development by planning and building projects that preserve natural resources, are cost-efficient and support human and natural environments.

"The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have been labelled as an ‘urgent call for action by all countries developed and developing’ and this alone amplifies the need to act.

"The construction industry has a huge impact on the environment. There is an increasing worldwide issue, regarding carbon footprints, CO2 emissions and the detrimental effects to the environment. Sustainable building design provides economical as well as environmental benefits. If the sustainable development process begins at conceptual design stage, this will include a multidisciplinary group of professionals, sharing ideas and innovation that meet the environmental and energy goals which would cost more if the project was taken on alone.

"I work with my favourite material, concrete. I have learned much from material experts and people who have been in the industry for many years. I love my job and I love exploring how we can use material science and engineering to build a more sustainable future (and I love education the masses about concrete!) I love working for Sir Robert McAlpine, they have truly provided me with the knowledge, experiences and skills I need to be a great engineer.

"I love exploring how we can use material science and engineering to build a more sustainable future. Sustainability breeds innovative thinking. Sustainable design has beneficial effects, creating healthy, diverse environments that boost people’s morale by providing a better quality of life.

  • Mimi Isabella Nwosu, Assistant Materials Engineer, Sir Robert McAlpine