Menu Search

National Women in Engineering Day 2016

  • Posted on 23rd June 2016
  • Category: General

Currently women make up less than 10% of the engineering sector and National Women in Engineering Day is now an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in the industry.

As a business, Patrick Parsons work hard to provide a great place to work for all of our employees, irrespective of gender, and we are comitted to making diversity an intergal part of what we do. We are proud to have a working culture that empowers women to excel.

To mark the day, we asked a couple of our female employees to share their views and experiences being a woman in the engineering industry.

Elaine Bissell, Associate Director (Mechanical), based in Manchester Elaine

How did you get into engineering?
I wanted to go to Loughborough University because they were the best university for netball, (which was my main sport at school) but I didn’t want to be a PE teacher and the only other option at Loughborough was engineering. I couldn’t decide which type of engineering to do so chose a four year Engineering Science degree and during my final year opted for most of the same options as the building services undergraduates.
I graduated with my first degree is 1987 and have worked in the industry ever since! (29 years minus two maternity breaks).

What does Women in Engineering Day mean for you?
It’s a day when we can reflect on how we can get more women into engineering. This year I am taking part in a debate at University of Salford to discuss what industry can do to encourage more women in to engineering.

What is the most difficult gender related issue you have encountered in your working career?
Male Chauvinism. Worst instance was from a previous employer where a main board director complained about sending a ‘girl’ to a multi million pound project interview in London. The fact that I was an Associate and a chartered engineer with two masters degrees and a honours degree in engineering appeared to be irrelevant!
Funniest instance was when my ‘A’ level physics teacher asked why myself and the two other girls in my physics group were in his physics lab and not next door in the domestic science lab! I replied ‘Sir we are here to learn physics, we already know how to make cakes!’ The next day we made him a Pavlova and took it to him in the staff room. He was very embarrassed and apologetic!

What have you done to promote women in engineering?
Recently when I became a STEM ambassador primarily to try and stop the role stereotyping that starts at primary school for girls and to get more girls to study STEM subjects at secondary school in a bid to open their eyes to the opportunities in engineering.

One piece of advice you would give to a young female starting out in a career in engineering?
Be tough and be very good at what you do. Don’t stand for any chauvinistic nonsense!

What are the most positive things about being a woman in engineering?
Not sure about woman in engineering but as an engineer my top five favourite things are:
1.    Every day is different
2.    Working in a team
3.    Designing buildings that will be there for years
4.    Being part of a changing world and making a difference
5.    Apparently according to one of my ex-bosses – having a woman engineer in your team makes the men work harder!

emmaEmma Meek, Geoenvironmental Engineer, based in Huddersfield

How did you get into engineering?
I wanted an environmental related career and I saw an advertisement for an Engineering Geologist role which I subsequently applied for and I was offered the job. I have now been in the industry for around 9 years.

What does Women in Engineering Day mean for you?
It highlights the fact that there are an ever increasing number of women in the industry and that this is likely to continue to rise.

What is the most difficult gender related issue you have encountered in your working career?
For a few weeks I worked for a consultancy that had a contract working for a major water supply company. I picked up on the fact that although the owners of the consultancy were happy for me to work for them (and had women working for them with other water companies elsewhere in the country) the water company seemed to be stuck in a previous era and they didn’t want me there.
My day to day boss at the consultancy was trying to land himself a role with the water company and therefore didn’t treat me very well. This was around 10 years ago now and fortunately I’ve never experienced anything like it again!

What have you done to promote women in engineering?
I haven’t done anything in particular to promote women in engineering but if anybody asks me about my job I give them positive feedback.

One piece of advice you would give to a young female starting out in a career in engineering?
Just be yourself and don’t treat the job any differently to if you were working in a none engineering role.

What are the most positive things about being a woman in engineering?
1. I’m always learning something new and I enjoy contributing to a project which in the long term should have a benefit to people.
2. Drillers don’t tend to shout and swear at me as much as I’ve sometimes seen them shouting at male engineers!
3. My days are likely to be more varied than if I was in a non-engineering career.
4. I’ve had experience working at places such as oil refineries, RAF bases and spent time in Ireland which I really enjoyed. If I’d have pursued a career that women have traditionally gone into I’m unlikely to have ever had these experiences.

Kates Jones, Associate Director, based in Twickenhamkate

How did you get into engineering?
I’ve been in the industry for 13 years, since I did a placement year at university working at a structural engineering practice. I was always better at maths and science subjects at school, but didn’t want to study pure maths/sciences or go into teaching, and I wasn’t interested in finance professions either. A careers advisor recommended engineering, I researched it and civil engineering seemed the most interesting to me – I liked that it was something tangible. I studied civil engineering at university, and from the very beginning of the course I was more interested in the structural side so I pursued that going forward.

What does National Women in Engineering Day mean for you?
It’s a good reminder that there is still a huge gender inequality in the industry, and although positive steps are being made, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of attracting women to engineering. It’s also a good opportunity to celebrate women in engineering and all they have contributed to the industry.

What is the most difficult gender related issue you have encountered in your working career?
It can be intimidating holding your own in a room full of older men, or correcting steel fixers on a building site, but like anything it gets easier with practice.

What have you done to promote women in engineering?
In the past I have been a Science and Engineering Ambassador, going to events aimed at 6th form students, promoting science and engineering through hands-on activities which intend to give the students an idea of what a career in this industry is about, and why it’s not just for men!
I think it’s also important to just do my job well, and be the best example I can be of a woman in engineering, with the hope that this rubs off on more junior staff within our own company, clients, and all the other professionals we work with on a daily basis.

One piece of advice you would give to a young female starting out in a career in engineering?
You deserve to be here every bit as much as the man next to you, don’t forget that.

What are the most positive things about being a woman in engineering?
Probably the same as for men! It is sometimes nice to get the surprised reaction from people asking my occupation ‘oh really, you’re an engineer… good for you!’ but that’s really a back-handed complement. I hope that one day soon no-one will be surprised that women can be successful engineers!