International Women in Engineering Day 2024
24th June, 2024

To recognise International Women in Engineering Day on the 23rd of June, we hosted a series of short interviews to highlight women in the practice.

But first, a few words from Morven Mitchell, our Communication and Bid Manager.

'From the point of view of someone working closely with many of the women engineers at P&M, it’s pretty safe to say that the quality of their contribution seems to be extremely high. They are very clearly highly respected and sought after as team members by our friends and peers in the industry. And while we do have an unusually high proportion of women engineers here, it is still perhaps a happy symptom of the well documented challenges women encounter in choosing a career in construction that those I’ve worked with are very much individuals, really original and creative thinkers, passionate without exception about engineering, and really good at their jobs. As colleagues, my lasting impression is of a group of people doing their utmost to champion each other, make a positive contribution to the wider benefit of the environment, society, practice, and industry, and generously support less experienced colleagues. They are an incredibly diligent, intelligent, and good-natured bunch.'

And lastly, a few answers from Partner, Anna Wai:

How do we encourage more girls and women into engineering? What can companies and organisations do to encourage more girls and women into engineering?

When I was very young, I had a lovely teacher called Mrs Annette. At one parents evening, she told my parents that if I studied hard I could be a doctor, lawyer, engineer etc.

That was one of my first memories of someone championing me to do well and maybe consider careers I didn’t know much about.

Of course as a 9 year old, I didn’t leave school that day thinking 'now I want to be an engineer!' However, the kind words of encouragement were incentive enough for me to try and work a little harder at school.

Looking back, I also hadn’t fully appreciated how lucky I was at the time with all the role models I had.

Most of the head teachers at the schools I went to were women, although this wasn’t typical at the time. Thankfully, I believe things have moved on since I was last at school.

I also had some wonderful female teachers who taught me STEM subjects at school. So, I believe all of this has subconsciously made a difference, as it hadn’t even occurred to me that there would be a gender imbalance.

Which leads me to think we all have a role in encouraging more girls and women into engineering.

We need to let them know what we do for a start, and how it can be an incredibly rewarding career.

I didn’t know any engineers when I was growing up, even when I started applying to university. I didn’t know anyone I could speak with to make sure I was making the right choice!

So, I think we should be going into schools more at primary and secondary, and giving them a window into the great things we get up to. Answer any questions they may have, and hopefully helping another set of future engineers to think that women in engineering is the norm.

What challenges do women still face in the workplace and the profession?

Fast forward quite a few years, I’m pleased to say I have seen the industry change.

I find I’m attending more design team meetings where there are more women in all disciplines and that also includes the contractors side.

However, in truth it hasn’t always been easy. As I’m going through my career, it seems like the list of commitments just gets longer and longer.

The juggle at times is incredibly tough. Family, long commute, teaching, work, health, friends.

As recently highlighted in The Structural Engineer, representation and visibility is important, however retaining senior female engineers is something we still must work on.

I’m not sure I have the answers to this one. We all have a unique set up and dynamics to our home lives.

However, despite the juggle I’ve always felt that I’ve had senior colleagues (female and male) that have listened and offered words of support. This has been invaluable as they’ve been through it too and could offer some comfort that we’re all trying our best.

I think this shared understanding, shifts in attitudes and flexibility most of us have in our day to day work will hopefully go towards helping.

I suppose in a way it’s like a journey. We may have to shift gears every now and again, however we’ll still end up at the destination.