International Women In Engineering Day (IWIED) aims to highlight some of the amazing work of women in engineering roles.
In celebration of IWIED, we have profiled some of our own female ‘Inventors and Innovators’ who are helping build towards a brighter future in engineering.
With endless passion, drive and enthusiasm, these women are empowered to identify solutions to some of the built environments' most complex challenges.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in engineering?
CW: To be honest, I feel pressure being a woman in the engineering industry. We are the minority in the UK and even more so in New Zealand. There are so many myths about females in our industry; that we are less technical, less practical, that we don’t like getting our hands dirty!
I feel a responsibility to prove we are just as valuable as our male counterparts. Any study you read confirms the value diversity has in the workplace, and I hope in time we’ll push the conscious (and unconscious) prejudices out of the workplace.
How can we encourage the future generation of females to become engineers?
CW: I think it must start in the schools – letting girls know engineering is an option. It’s a brilliant path of study that can lead to so many different careers.
It was never communicated as an option at my school, but I was lucky enough to have some cousins that had studied engineering; this was my pathway into this industry. I think getting into the schools is key to encouraging more females into the industry.
Is the industry less daunting to women than the stereotype would have us believe?
RB: I believe people should know there is a difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. There has never been a time like our present era when it was so easy for women to become engineers. There is such a push and encouragement right now for women to join the industry that it is hard to see where a barrier to join lies. So yes it is not only less daunting, it is actually the opposite of daunting in my experience and opinion. For me, even if there had been a sterotypical barrier to join the construction industry, it won’t have mattered, because, from a young age, my parents had taught me that I could become anything I set my mind to.
What inspires you about Engineering?
RB: I love the creativity you witness in engineering, especially ingenious simple yet elegant solutions to problems. Also, some of the structures that have been built show how amazing and powerful the human mind is, to be able to bring to life such complex yet beautiful and iconic structures. I especially love historic stone buildings because they were designed and constructed at a time when they did not have the technology and software that we have today. It tells me that it is indeed possible to achieve greatness once you set your mind to do it.
Do you have any advice for future female engineers?
RB: You can do anything you set your mind to do. So let go of any mindset that limits you, or any belief in you that wrongly says ‘I can’t do it, women can’t be engineers, or even that the construction industry is difficult for women to work in’. There is nothing that can stop you except yourself. Go often to places that inspire you to remind yourself of what is achievable.
Secondly, network within the industry and humbly learn from those who are ahead of you. There are so many people with a world of knowledge and experience who are willing to share. Do not be afraid to ask questions.
Thirdly, make it a goal to become a person of value and excellence- this is a constant process of learning, growing from your mistakes. You will not necessarily start out excellent but you can definitely work towards it and be a little better than you were each day. And having done all this, go where you are valued.
Finally, work hard and smart but do not become a workaholic. Take time to really live and participate in other activities, travel, explore and go on adventures, meet people and make great memories.
How did structural engineering become your career choice?
LM: I have chosen structural engineering as my profession due to the passion I have always had for architecture. Growing up in Rome meant that I was constantly surrounded by structures constructed more than 2000 years ago, which sparked my desire to learn more about the physics hidden behind. In addition, a very important aspect that I considered was related to the nature of the job itself and how this offered continuous challenges, a widespread variety of projects (ranging from small to large, new to refurb, feasibility to construction stage, office or site based) and the possibility to work with different teams across various projects.
What excites you about engineering in the built environment?
LM: Having worked on refurbishment projects, I found myself being very passionate about the research and study of historical structures, including the different materials and construction techniques that have evolved over the decades and centuries and how these shaped the techniques used nowadays. It is remarkable to see how the shift of focus towards sustainability has driven engineering to push the boundaries daily and generate sophisticated hybrid construction techniques able to minimise the carbon content of a building whilst trying to retain the same efficiency.
What inspired you to choose engineering as a career?
ML: I grew up in a technical family as my parents are both engineers. My dad was always building something and I was always around him. I learned from a very young age things like how to open up a plug, how to drive nails in timber, how to put up a fence, how to make concrete blocks and then lay them. I was about 10 when my dad started building a house for my grandparents and I was there from start to finish, getting involved in the house layouts as well as during construction.
As I grew, I started learning Autocad and got more and more involved in my dad’s work. Even though I studied Computer Science in high school and everyone expected me to go into programming, I always envisioned a career in Architecture or Engineering.
I like things that are logical, I like to see how things work and how they are put together but I also like Architecture. Being a structural engineer combines all of these.
What are your thoughts on the future of engineering?
ML: I hope that we will still use our brains and not just machines to design structures. Computers are great and they help so much. With the software we have nowadays, we can do so much more than before and in a much shorter time. Coordination in Revit is amazing, being able to communicate with anyone in the world just by turning on your computer is great. The internet provides so much more information and answers to a lot of questions. But, at the end of the day, it is the human brain that drives all these and we should always remember that going forward.
Do you have any advice for the next generation of female engineers?
ML: Being an engineer is not something only men can do, it has nothing to do with that. Being an engineer is all about how your mind works. The times are changing, and more and more women are going into Engineering and Construction in general. It is a rewarding career, with many ups and downs, no different from any other. Never be put off by the fact that there are more men than women. Women today are much stronger and smarter than ever. We can do so much more than before simply because we are brave enough to try.
We are extremely lucky to have a strong female presence within our business and recognise International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate, reflect and encourage women of all ages and cultures.
Regardless of gender, our vision is to empower our staff, our mission is to create a fun, engaging and innovative place to work, and our core values define how we do things.
If you’re reading this and feel inspired to make a jump into the engineering industry, why not check out our careers page and see if there’s a role fit for you. (Don’t worry, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, we’re always keen to hear from talented passionate people, so don’t hesitate to send us your C.V)