Engineering firm aiming to put women in driving seat

PROFESSIONAL services and engineering firm WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff in Manchester is working towards closing the gender gap in the industry, with women now making-up 20% of its workforce.

This compares to an industry average of fewer than 10% across the engineering sector nationwide.

To mark National Women in Engineering Day on June 23, the company is putting the spotlight on its female engineers.

Last year, 35% of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s graduate intake was female, and some specialisms such as structural engineering are now hitting the 50% mark.

The business, which employs almost 600 staff in Manchester and is behind some of the city’s most iconic schemes including the high-rise Beetham Tower and the planned 28-storey Axis Tower, is urging more women to consider a career in the sector which offers a breadth of specialisms and opportunities across the globe.

Katherine Jackson is a technical director in the energy team, having worked in the engineering industry for almost 30 years specialising in electrical engineering in the energy sector. 

She is one of a growing number of female senior directors now working in the industry, but believes there needs to be improved visibility of women currently working in engineering. 

She said: “I believe that, although it’s slowly changing, women are still under-represented in the sector because parents and teachers are not fully aware of the range of opportunities and types of careers available for women in engineering.

“When I started working in the sector, I would say that some of my colleagues had slightly outdated views, but I don’t think that’s a problem now.

“I hope that by increasing awareness of female engineers and the breadth of roles we do; we’ll inspire the next generation of women to embark on a career in the sector.”

Ellen Lancaster has worked in the engineering sector for the last seven years since graduating from Warwick University with a MEng in Civil Engineering. Ellen Lancaster

A senior engineer in the highways and bridges team at WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff in Manchester, Lancaster feels that giving young girls the confidence to believe that any career option is open to them is key to redressing the number of female engineers working the sector.

She said: “There is a wide range of careers out there in engineering so you can find something that suits you.

“You can be site based, office based, follow a technical career path, a project management career path or a business development career path.

“There is something for all personalities and strengths. A university degree isn’t always necessary either as the industry offers apprenticeships and scholarships.

“Engineering is a life-long career that can take you anywhere in the world if you wish and no matter what your age or experience, you always learn something new.”