Welcome to our dedicated INWED section celebrating International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June and all the contributions made by women engineers.
INWED’s theme this year is ‘Engineering Heroes’.
The awareness day is a great way of sharing with the world just how diverse a career in civil engineering can be, removing some of those myths that that possibly stop more young women entering the industry.
We've asked some of our best female civil engineers to tell us the personal mantras that have shaped their careers.
From being brave and fearless to making sure they do what they love, these women have some great life lessons to share – and we think they'll be useful to you, too.
Senior women engineers need more support to gain ICE fellowship – 6 July
More needs to be done to support senior professional women to become fellows, according to ICE members at an INWED21 event.
ICE fellows, industry leaders and experts in their diverse fields of civil engineering from across the ICE Northern Ireland and Scotland regions, met to understand more about the importance of ICE fellowship (FICE), and how it can be achieved.
While they acknowledged the importance of encouraging women into engineering at the start of their careers, they recognised that women in their later career stages still face barriers and challenges.
Attendees were particularly interested in how to encourage a wider range of engineers to become ICE fellows, and to follow this up in the future by identifying and working with role models to share their stories and encourage others towards fellowship.
Two female ICE members were among the speakers sharing their stories with young people at this year's NI Construction Bootcamp.
The NI Construction Bootcamp is a virtual work experience programme, hosted by School Employer Connections and Speakers for Schools, and endorsed by the Construction Industry Training Board. The programme aims to inspire young people to choose a career in the construction industry.
Five ICE members led the civil engineering session. describing the breadth of opportunities a civil engineering career can bring. The wide range of career experience and opportunities shared included:
- completing a geotechnical PhD;
- repairing a traditional rope bridge;
- helping to promote the work of civil engineers to the next generation; and
- encouraging more women and girls to consider civil engineering as a career.
The virtual programme brings together representatives from major construction organisations, to illustrate for young people the diversity and potential of careers within the industry, by giving insight into the various roles available.
Sally Walters, framework manager for Stantec, working with South West Water and Bristol Water, has been awarded fellowship of ICE in recognition of her experience and outstanding contribution to the profession.
“I see achieving fellowship as an opportunity to highlight the amazing opportunities in engineering available to everyone; to use my skills and experience to act as a role model to aspiring engineers; and as an opportunity to encourage more women to consider becoming ICE Fellows,” she said.
For more than 15 years, Walters has worked alongside South West Water on major wastewater treatment works scheme upgrades, improving treatment capacity and standards to improve bathing water quality across the region.
She’s currently playing a key role in delivering South West Water’s two new flagship Water Treatment Works Schemes for Bournemouth Water at Alderney and Knapp Mill.
A passionate advocate for the sector
ICE Fellowship shines a light on the achievements of leading professionals and follows a rigorous application process. Walters has been recognised not only as a specialist in her sector but as an active and passionate advocate for engineering in the region.
She’s currently a member of the ICE Council, a judge for the ICE South West Civil Engineering Awards and a contributor to the South West Infrastructure Partnership. She’s also an honorary member, and lifelong supporter of RedR, a charity supporting the development of people and skills for responding to humanitarian crises.
Miranda Housden, ICE South West regional director, said: “Sally's energy and commitment in promoting engineering as career for everyone is helping to inspire people from diverse backgrounds to take the first or next step in the profession.
"Her accreditation as an ICE Fellow sends out a message that women are making a defining contribution at the very highest level of engineering. We need more women like Sally to become ICE Fellows!”
The Women’s Engineering Society reports that 12.3% of engineers are female with 5% of those female engineers professionally registered. ICE has worked hard to improve the level of female engineers joining the profession and Institution and currently records 15.3% of total membership as female, with 22.1% in the under 40 age group.
By Lidia Pearce, 22 June 2021
Beth Williams is a structural engineer at Build Collective Ltd and Certified PassivHaus Designer. She has over 10 years’ experience in low-energy and low-carbon design and construction, with a focus on timber frame PassivHaus buildings.
"To attract and retain more women in civil engineering, I think we need to make more part time and flexible working positions available, including giving more capacity for working from home," says Beth.
"This will help ensure that a career in engineering is more sustainable across the whole a working life. We also need to encourage more women as visible role models in the profession to ensure that young women in education or early careers are seeing women in more senior and influential positions in the industry, giving hope of career progression and recognition."
Women deserve to have a position in the industry because we are equally human, nothing more or less than that!Beth Williams
"I don’t believe we should be selling ‘women in engineering’ because we are ‘unique’ or more special than men – we’re not, we’re just as fallible as men."
Rosheena Jugdhurry is a structural engineer specialising in energy and maritime at Arup, who wants to see an industry that celebrates and utilises the uniqueness of a diverse workforce to shape a better world.
"I want our industry to have engineers, designers, planners, modellers etc and not to be bound by labels related to our gender, ethnicity, race, age or sexual orientation," says Rosheena.
"However, we cannot ignore the fact that the construction industry today has a very low percentage of women and this is not helping us to realise the full potential of an industry with a diverse workforce. This is why International Women in Engineering Day is important, to celebrate the contribution that women bring to the industry.
"I see myself as an engineer who happens to be a woman. I believe that my strengths are my persistence to keep trying my best until I find a solution to a problem, my calm approach to a stressful situation and professionalism."
Mimi-Isabella Nwosu, is an engineer at Sir Robert McAlpine. She says the industry needs to collaborate more closely with schools and colleges to have a stronger influence on the curriculum. "Engineering is extremely practical, and needs innovate and creative thinkers and to solve world issues," says Mimi.
"There is still a stigma attached to engineering as being a career for men. We need to do more to show the variety of engineering. I complete numerous STEM ambassador activities and give presentations at all-girl schools; I always use one of the female attendees’ interests and link them to an engineering job.
"For example, I used a young girl’s interest in horses to speak about my friend who also loves horses and is a product design engineer who designs bespoke horse carriages. We need to make engineering more relatable to all women, no matter their interests, this needs to start from a young age. We need to link real world problems to what is taught in schools."
Yvonne Murphy is a senior civil engineer at Mott MacDonald.
She says: "The biggest success for women in engineering will be when people don't have to talk about it anymore. We need people who reflect society, to serve that society, particularly in civil engineering. We design civilian infrastructure that must be useful for everyone - irrespective of race, creed, gender."
Elaine Campbell is a structural engineer working in oil and gas with Atkins.
"I love seeing people’s reactions when I tell them I’m an engineer,” says Elaine. “Depending on the person, sometimes I’m met with confusion, praise or just bewilderment. I have so many female friends and colleagues who are also engineers and I’m certainly not the first woman in engineering and definitely won’t be the last, so I often don’t understand why people are still surprised.”
“I really enjoy the challenges that I’ve faced so far in my career and would like to think that by sharing my story I am helping to encourage the next generation. There are so many opportunities out there – do what you enjoy and grasp these great chances that are available."
Louise Hetherington is a past ICE President’s Future Leader and a structural engineer at Atkins.
“The sustainability agenda has been spoken about for many years, before I started considering engineering as an option. Yet we’re still talking about it now, as whilst some steps have been taken, great bounds forward have not happened. Sustainability should be at the forefront of civil engineers minds as we have the opportunity to drive serious change within the UK and further afield."
“Female engineers bring a different approach to the industry than men purely for the reason, we are different. We all get brought up in a society with different pressures on men and women and that shapes our opinions of how things should be done.”
“There are studies available to show how we all live in a world designed for men, how cancer is more typically diagnosed on men because the recognisable symptoms are symptoms men have and how even seatbelts in cars are not necessarily designed for the average woman – but instead the average man. So take that forward and apply how someone with a different viewpoint perceives the world and our infrastructure projects can benefit immensely too.”
Read more on INWED on Louise's blog.
Hayley Jackson is a past President's Future Leader and a site engineer with Taylor Woodrow. Hayley says the industry needs to widen the pool of professionals to improve diversity.
"According to the Women’s Engineering Society, only 11% of the engineering workforce worldwide is female, with the UK seeing the lowest figure in Europe at less than 10%," says Hayley.
"I’m sure you have seen these statistics before, but they are an even more common discussion point around the time of INWED, yet there seems to be little improvement year on year. One consideration that I think we should be taking, is looking at a wider pool of professionals to introduce to the civil engineering sector.
"Environmental scientists and geographers have a broad understanding of the global challenges we face and how the planet reacts to air, land and water pollution. They understand ecosystems and how best to preserve the world we live in."
Holly Smith is a past ICE President’s Future Leader and engineer at Mott MacDonald. She believes that diversity must be at the heart of future growth within the industry.
“We can only achieve the best engineering solutions for society through creative thinking and encompassing a variety of perspectives from a diverse range of people,” says Holly.
“I believe the greater cognitive diversity you have in a team, the more you can achieve. If we work in a team with those like us, it may seem to be a more comfortable environment, but not necessarily one which challenges our typical way of thinking and stimulates ingenuity. I believe gender diversity is only one aspect of this and we must create an inclusive environment where everyone can be valued for what experiences and insights they can contribute."
Read more on INWED on Holly's blog.
ICE NW Director Emma Antrobus says slow progress is not enough – we need more women in engineering.
“For many reasons, women and girls are significantly under-represented in many industries. Engineering is one of those.
“We also know that a diverse workforce brings about many benefits and ultimately helps ensure that civil engineering schemes meet the needs of a wide range of users.
“We need to continue to help younger girls and women foster their love of STEM subjects. We need more role models and active mentoring, for junior, middle and senior women. And we need benchmarking against other industries and countries to support better decision-making in the board room.”