“The UK is the worst country in Europe when it comes to the progression of female engineers. At half of all UK state schools, not a single girl is studying physics at A level – which is a basic requirement for engineering.” – Vince Cable – Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
The above is from a keynote speech made at the Women of the Future Summit, which took place in London on May 15th 2013.
Last week, I met Jodie Elsom at Abacus Design in Loughborough to speak with her about her career. She’s a senior structural engineer and one of the company directors at Abacus. And if what Mr Cable says is accurate, she’s also, clearly, a rarity.
The reasons why more women don’t go into engineering or construction are manifold. One aspect that often gets cited is the ‘men-only’ atmosphere you can find in those industries.
Structural engineers are going to spend time on building sites, generally the domain of men. I’ve been to quite a few sites since I joined CASCAiD and the atmosphere is a ‘male’ one, and I’m saying that as someone who is probably the second most masculine man at CASCAID.
I asked Jodie for her views on this and she spoke a little about it in the video at the top of this article. She did say that in the beginning on site, there was the feeling amongst some people, that she was a bit of a ‘novelty’, but once she proved she knew what she was doing, her knowledge was respected.
If someone’s good at what they do, as Jodie must be to have risen to the position she’s in, they’ll be accepted by the people they work with. This seems to be the view I generally hear. Being young, and inexperienced can be more of a hurdle to acceptance than gender. And gaining experience and peer respect is just part of everyone’s career journey.
The full video of Jodie’s interview will be appearing in CASCAiD products in the near future.