Raising our profiles: the key to inspiring tomorrow’s women engineers

On National Women in Engineering Day, Hannah Shewan-Friend of Arup tells us about her journey into the engineering profession

Hannah’s work at the 2012 Olympic Games included designing the gas supply for the Olympic Flame.
Hannah’s work at the 2012 Olympic Games included designing the gas supply for the Olympic Flame.

When I was at school I remember being asked "when you grow up are you going to be a hairdresser like your mummy?". "No" I said, "I want be an engineer like my dad!"

I studied Civil Engineering at Greenwich University and now work as a Senior Engineering Technician at Arup, using the latest drafting and 3D modelling programs. I feel very privileged to have worked on some very high profile and interesting projects in both the civil and structural disciplines, including the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon, King Abdulaziz International Airport, Stanley Park School which won the 2012 London Design Award for new build at the Education Business Awards, the London 2012 Olympics, and most recently on the Greenwich Peninsula redevelopment.

I've always loved drawing, and problem solving, having a thirst to understand how something works and what solutions we can apply to solve the problems that lay before us.

There are many avenues for women in the varied roles in construction and when it comes to engineering, I feel women have a lot to offer. They have a structured approach to managing work, are able to juggle the different demands of the job and according to many studies, companies that promote diversity, equality and promote women to senior roles perform better in health and safety, employee satisfaction, and profitability.

I entered the field of engineering for several reasons. I wanted a career that kept me thinking, able to learn new skills and to meet new people and engineering has given me all of this. I also wanted to be part of something bigger, where I could make a difference to the quality of life for society as a whole including environmental matters as well as creating better living and working environments. The London 2012 Olympics was a perfect example of this, where a disused and ignored part of London was completely regenerated from an industrial wasteland into a vibrant and diverse living space. This project showcased the UK's engineering skills, when 4 billion people around the world turned their eyes towards East London for the Olympics.

I worked as part of the utilities team, for the official engineering design services provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This involved designing elements such as the utility layouts, the design of a 'words in water' waterfall, and producing drawings for this and the main gas line that fed the Olympic Flame. I also lead a team of Technicians in producing key location drawings across the site. I'm proud to have been part of this piece of London's history.

'Words in Water' waterfall at the London 2012 Olympic Park
'Words in Water' waterfall at the London 2012 Olympic Park (Photo credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park)

Today (23 June) is National Women in Engineering Day, and the profiles of women in this profession are being raised to showcase the amazing career opportunities available, to young women who would like to consider a career in Engineering. I have shared my story, and I would like to encourage others to do the same - via Twitter using the #NWED2016 and #RaisingProfiles hashtags.

We should not be afraid to shout about our achievements, we need to inspire the female engineers and technicians of tomorrow and give them confidence to achieve their full potential. So please share your stories and accomplishments. Ladies, engineering is not just for the boys!

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