Women in Engineering - It's Time to Tell Our Stories

23/06/2016 15:16 | Updated 23 June 2016

It is clear that civil engineering creates impressive accomplishments. Examples range from designing the stunning 95-storey Shard skyscraper in London to the beautiful Gateshead Millennium 'Blinking Eye' Bridge in Newcastle.

What is less evident to the general public is that civil engineering also happens behind the scenes of our everyday lives. Getting you from point A to point B on the London Underground, or from Sheffield to Birmingham on the railway is made possible by civil engineers. Allowing you to turn your kitchen taps on and trusting that the water that comes out is safe to drink is made possible by civil engineers.

Even less evident to the average person are the roles that women engineers are playing.

Today (23 June) is National Women in Engineering Day, through which the industry is shining a light on the role of women in civil engineering. The "raising profiles" theme for the day aims to use the stories of current role models to highlight the diverse careers and opportunities available to young women who may be considering entering the profession.

Aimi Elias, Melanie Ogden and Claire Gott are all award winning civil engineers who have designed and delivered major pieces of transport infrastructure whilst in their 20s.

This is important - if you can see it, it's easier to believe it. For young women considering their career options, it is easier to believe you can grow up to be a civil engineer if you see examples who you relate to. Many young women may not have the advantage of supportive schools and parents to highlight and communicate the variety of roles in the sector and the possibilities to reach the top.

We need more women entering the profession. Only 9% of the UK engineering workforce is female. In civil engineering, 12% of the Institution of Civil Engineer's (ICE) membership is female with 16% of graduate members being female (April 2016).

There are many examples of women in civil engineering who have high flying careers. Take for example Jean Venables who is an expert in managing flood risk in the Thames Estuary and has previously served as ICE President. Civil engineers can also get global recognition in their early careers. Two female civil engineers made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Europe this year, which celebrates at the brightest and most talented under-30 year olds who are already shining in their chosen career, and changing our world - a recognition that a career in civil engineering is a means of doing so.

There is certainly no shortage of inspiring engineering projects from around the world, and that includes many examples where women are driving projects forward. The investors behind Istanbul's third airport boast that it is being built by a record-breaking workforce which includes 162 female engineers and architects.

This isn't an isolated case. Here in the UK women are contributing day in day out in a variety of roles and projects. Take for example the last project I worked on: Custom House Crossrail Station, in the docklands of East London. I worked with several very different and impressive women in the construction team, handling very different roles and coming from very different career paths. From women who studied civil engineering at university, through to those learning through apprenticeships. All of us are continuously learning new things, from the job and from each other.

Women in Crossrail, working on Europe's largest tunnelling project. Women form 29 per cent of Team Crossrail. Image courtesy of Crossrail.

This day celebrates all great works of engineering, to demonstrate to young women where such a career could take them. We need all engineers from all backgrounds - not only women - to help in raising profiles. So engineers, please tell your friends, families, children's neighbours, local schools etc. what you do and how your job makes a difference to society.

Join in the conversation on twitter using #NWED2016