Women Inspiring Women: International Women in Engineering Day
At evolve, we have an amazing group of women working for our company, giving their all on a daily basis to help design and build a fantastic array of structures across the UK and beyond.
As we celebrate this year’s International Women in Engineering Day 2021, under the theme of ‘Engineering Heroes’, we decided to look closer to home for inspiration. To look to the people, and in particular the women, who first sparked our interest in engineering. To look at those who offered guidance and encouragement when we were starting out, and those who became valuable role models.
Student Engineer Anna credits her family with having planted the engineering seed in her mind when she was young. Her older sister Ruth studied aerospace engineering, while her Aunt Rosie was one of the first female electrical engineers in the northeast.
She says, “They both put engineering on my radar. They made me see it as a female profession, one completely accessible to females, as they were the only engineers I knew. They are both so great at what they do, and really encouraged me to look into engineering and what it’s all about, and to find a sector that I would really enjoy.”
Anna also now sees that her personal experience exemplifies how the perceived ‘male-focus’ of the industry is just a stereotype that is learnt, taught and reinforced. She is pleased to get the chance to be part of the sea change helping to shift attitudes and promote the amazing work being done by so many, women included.
Project Engineer Jess was taken under the wing of former evolve colleague Margaret Hanway when she first joined the company, and the pair ended up working together full-time on a large-scale project for two years. Jess explains that Margaret “dedicated a huge amount of time to teach and guide me whilst also becoming a firm friend. Although she later emigrated to Canada, she left me with so many valuable lessons and I will always be grateful for the time she gave me, and for our friendship which grew as a result.”
When Senior Engineer Kathleen was starting her career with a former employer, an associate at the time called Helen Gribbon made a big impact. “I used to tag along with her to various site visits and project meetings”, says Kathleen. “She is an amazing engineer, an amazing mom at the same time, and she could sketch so well. She was firm but friendly, and so well respected both internally within the company and externally too.” In fact, Helen made such a strong impression that a young graduate Kathleen felt like proclaiming, “I want to be like her when I grow up!”
Another engineer who had a similar influence on Kathleen at the time was Phyllis Agbasi. She says, “I only worked with her on one project where she was the senior engineer and I was the graduate, but she was managing to juggle full-time work with raising her three children, while again being friendly and well liked, and that really left its mark on me.”
And while engineering is the topic of the day, new evolve recruit Jemima mentions a young woman who has become a hero for women and girls across all walks of life, regardless of profession – female activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and now Oxford University graduate, Malala Yousafzai. Jemima highlights Malala’s continuous campaigning for girls’ education throughout the developing world and how important this could be for the future of engineering and for encouraging young girls to take an interest in STEM subjects and related careers.
Jemima explains, “I think her work and activism has been a reminder to me not take for granted the access to free education that we have available in the UK. This has made me determined to someday use my position to help other girls and women.”
With an ambition like that, here’s hoping that Jemima will one day be making a difference too. Perhaps she will become a hero in someone’s eyes for helping to guide them to the exciting, varied, and worthwhile career choice that is engineering?
While many ‘heroes’ undoubtedly leave their mark on the world in a variety of exceptional, crucial, and invaluable ways – especially in the year just past – some just quietly touch people’s lives and have a lasting effect, without even realising it. A reminder, perhaps, that we can all be an everyday hero if we make the effort to share wisdom, advice, and words of encouragement. Who knows what kind of impact it could have on just one other person? The future of engineering, and women’s ever-expanding role in the field, may just depend on it.