Project Centre celebrates International Women in Engineering Day 2017
International Women in Engineering Day takes place annually on 23 June. This day celebrates the achievements of women in engineering as well as encourages future female talent in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry.
Times are changing and slowly we are seeing an increase in females studying engineering and technical subjects, and progressing into successful careers. Here at Project Centre we are extremely proud to be an advocate for women in engineering.
Tracey McGovern, Principal Engineer, delivers highway and public realm improvement schemes across the south east transforming places into exceptional spaces that people use. We sit down with Tracey and discuss how she got to where she is, her inspirations and the challenges she’s faced in her career…
Q: Why do you think there aren’t as many women working in engineering as men?
A: As an industry we struggle to encourage and retain women once they qualify and join the industry. Curriculum reform in recent years and targeted STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers advice is starting to address the lack of school leavers joining the industry; however we need to do more in terms of retaining and promoting women in engineering.
There are numerous contributing factors; lack of mentorship for women in the industry, gender dynamics within certain areas of the industry resulting in lack of confidence and the inability to balance a professional career against the demands of family life.
The industry’s reputation also contributes to the problem, engineering is often viewed as a male career option and not known as an industry that is now adapting, for example by offering flexible working practices. This perception acts as a barrier.
Q: How do you think the industry can encourage women to work in this industry?
A: We need to continue to create a working environment that promotes a good work life balance. The demands of the job and trying to maintain a healthy work life balance can be challenging. We are slowly seeing an increase in flexible working practices in areas of industry, focusing on what people deliver as opposed to where they sit. This approach can reduce work related stress and increase productivity, and should be promoted.
Q: How do you balance being a mum and working fulltime?
A: It’s a struggle, the same with any career driven job. I’m fortunate that I am supported by a good team, so I can delegate jobs to them but I also have to carefully prioritise my time.
There’s also some responsibility on the employer to offer a flexible environment. Project Centre let me do a condensed week which means I spend four days working, some of this time at home, other staff work 30 hours or set days from home. There has to be a lot of trust between staff and Project Centre but I deliver on schemes so have proven that it doesn’t matter where I work from the job gets done.
Flexible working can be challenging, it can spill into your home life, particularly on a Sunday evening and I have to rein myself in. But I prefer flexible working than working Mon-Fri 9-5 in the office. It’s hard work but you can make it work.
Q: How did you get into engineering?
A: Maths and Physics have always been my stronger subjects so Engineering in some shape or form was always a good fit for my strengths. The majority of my family work in construction so from the age of 16 I would often work on sites as an Engineer’s Assistant during weekends and college and holidays.
I secured a place at Southampton University and studied for four years to complete a Masters in Civil Engineering. During this time I won a scholarship with Gifford and spent two years working for them in their offices in the New Forest during University holidays.
When I graduated I wanted to move back to London. I joined Jacobs in their Tower Bridge Office within their Urban Design team working on infrastructure, highways and public realm schemes. During my time there I gained design experience working on highway schemes and was seconded to Local Government part-time for two years supervising the delivery of some major schemes. The experience I gained in terms of managing consultants and contractors, exposure to construction sites and contract management proved invaluable.
As a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) I visited Exhibition Road as part of an ICE presentation. I decided then and there that I wanted to work with the engineers who delivered that scheme, and I joined Project Centre in 2012.
In October 2014 I sat my Professional Review with CIHT and became Chartered Engineer (CEng MCIHT) in January 2015.
Q: What does an average day look like for you?
A: It’s really varied. I project manage schemes from inception to completion. This includes concept stage, feasibility design, being out on site with contractors, design, quantity surveying, pricing schemes and contracts. I work with an excellent team of people who support me in delivering the schemes.
Q: What do you find interesting about your job?
A: There are very few other industries which offer the opportunity to address serious national and global issues such as flood risk, air quality, population growth and obesity.
I work with some excellent colleagues and clients across a huge variety of schemes. Everything we deliver is a team effort, this continually challenges me to improve and support my team to develop and strive to be better.
Q: What do you dislike about your job?
Not so much what I dislike but I would like to be able to give more of my time to colleagues to assist them with their development. Often project delivery and deadlines dictate, so I don’t spend as much time on sharing knowledge as I would like.
Q: What are your aspirations for your future?
A: So far I have resisted managerial roles as I have focused on improving my technical knowledge. I feel that there are only a few people in the industry who have a really sound technical knowledge base. People move onto management and then there is a loss of knowledge in the business, we need to get better at retaining skills.
Q: What would you say to a 16 year old female school leaver?
Do what you’re good at and do more of it. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to try, fail, try again and fail again!