A group of women working on an important infrastructure project at Devonport Royal Dockyard are building the foundations for the future of women in the built environment. It is not often you see women outnumbering men on a project of this nature, but here at KierBAM we are setting the tone and hoping to inspire future generations for years to come.

This year, for International Women in Engineering Day we are celebrating the fantastic women working at Devonport Royal Dockyard. This year’s theme is Engineering Heroes and these women encompass that, they work in the Kier BAM team, the wider Babcock team and CosMott, the delivery partners team at Devonport Royal Dockyard.

Craig Small, operations director at Kier Infrastructure (KierBAM), said: “Gender equality continues to be a high priority for us in the civil engineering sector and it is not by accident that we have focused on finding the very best people for key roles within our team. As tomorrow’s leaders, these young women will actively seek to ensure gender equality is embedded within our culture and realise opportunities for others to futureproof this.”

Interviews with our Engineering Heroes

Emma Lyle
Package Manager
Babcock International Group

Q. Why do you think it is important to champion the female heroes of the engineering sector?

The need for civil engineers and infrastructure professionals has never been greater. Within Babcock the scale and quantity of projects that are scheduled to take place in the next 20 years is incredible – development of this magnitude has not been seen for at least half a century.

Q. What is your advice to women considering a career within the civil engineering and construction industry?

Be open minded, civil engineering comes with lots of opportunities. Within this project there are many roles which a career in civil engineering could take you.

Eleanor Kentish
Project Manager
Kier Infrastructure

Q. How do you think the civil engineering and construction industry can further adapt or improve to embrace female engineers?

Flexible working would help attract a more diverse workforce, whether this be working hours or locations. This flexibility could help distribute the unpaid care work that typically women spend more time doing than men. During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve needed to change our working practices and I hope that some stay.

Q. What is your advice to women considering a career within the civil engineering and construction industry?

Go for it! Try and get some work experience in the industry, this will give you a good insight into what it’s really like and get a foot in the door. The Institution of Civil Engineers has a fantastic website with information on careers in engineering and construction and events you can attend.

Veronica Williams BEng MSc CEng MIMechE MWeldI
Chief Welding Engineer
Babcock

Q. What is the highlight of your career so far?

Gaining my International Welding Engineer/European Welding Engineer qualification during 2020. This marked the end to my formal welding engineering training which has taken five years to achieve. During that time I also completed a Welding Engineering MSc as well as gaining chartership with The Welding Institute. Being a fully qualified Welding Engineer gives me a great sense of achievement because I love the subject and feel like I can make a positive difference in the industry.

Q. Why is the uptake of STEM subjects by girls in school so important to the future of engineering?

I have always been interested in science and maths and it was natural for me to carry them through to further education. However, many girls drop STEM subjects in their teens, due to the stigma around needing to be super clever to progress these topics. Girls can lack confidence in their own abilities and as such are pressured to drop them. In my view, we should get better at showcasing STEM subjects in schools so that students can make an informed decision before dropping any of them.

Toni Ardron BSc (Hons)
CIPD – Operational Support Manager (Security and Logistics)
Kier Infrastructure

Q. How has your company supported you in your career as a female in civil engineering and construction?

I have never worked in a conventional role within the industry and have never really known what I want to do long term. My company has allowed me to explore many different options and define my own path within the constraints of the company needs. I have also had a baby while working with the company and they worked very hard to accommodate necessary changes to my role following my return to work.

Victoria Clapp NECReg, MRICS, MSc, BA (Hons)
Quantity Surveyor
Mott MacDonald (CosMott)

Q. How do you feel about the idea of being a role model to women in civil engineering and construction?

It has a real feel good factor. I never thought teaching/mentoring would be something I would be interested in, but I now run chartership revision sessions and am a mentor to one of our female apprentices. I find it keeps me up to date and I get a lot back from our conversations.

Q. What is your advice to women considering a career within the civil engineering and construction industry?
Say yes to things, speak to people, grow a network and get your name out there.

Rachel Jarman
Laboratory Technician
BAM Ritchies

Q. What made you first interested in a career in civil engineering and construction?

I came to construction late on in my career, due to Hinkley Point C being on my doorstep. To be honest I was burning out in my support worker role and wanted a job working outside again. My husband was working at HPC, so I applied as a general operative. I joined the laboratory on site when they needed extra support, and discovered I really enjoyed the role. I am now employed as a technician directly for BAM Ritchies.

Q. Why is the uptake of STEM subjects by girls in school so important to the future of engineering?

I think STEM subjects need linking to something more relatable to encourage girls into the industry. Site visits, meeting women working in the field, mentoring etc are more likely to fire the imagination than relying solely on academic subjects. I would never have focused on STEM in school as I am not very good at them! But I don’t think this prevents me from being a good laboratory technician now.

Katie Farrell EngTech MICE
Assistant Engineer
BAM Nuttall (KierBAM JV)

Q. What made you first interested in a career in civil engineering and construction?

I always knew that I wanted to work with structures and buildings but at school did not know what career I wanted to choose. I chose maths, physics and chemistry and did a week’s work experience at The Port of Bristol. I really enjoyed the range of tasks and challenges that I saw the engineers working with and so I applied to study civil engineering at university, and the rest is history!

Dr Claire Howell MGeoSci, MIMMM, FGS
Geotechnical Engineer
BAM Ritchies

Q. What is the highlight of your career so far?

My biggest achievement is gaining my PhD in civil and environmental engineering. This allowed me to put theory into practice and look at solving a real-world problem.
I have also been very lucky to have the opportunity to work at Hinkley Point C, where I was part of the team that put in over 200km of ground nails as part of the slope stabilisation. Working on site also exposed me to various areas of engineering right at the start of my career.

Q. What is your advice to women considering a career within the civil engineering and construction industry?
Don’t let your gender be a barrier to what you want to do.