Looking back over the years, I have always been drawn to the construction industry. Even from a young age I was building Ferris wheels or robots out of K’Nex or knocking down towers that I’d built out of blocks; the typical girly choice of dolls just never appealed to me! I always had a passion for numbers, which is ideal for engineering, but dreaded the spelling tests at the end of the school week.
Choosing my GCSEs and A-levels wasn’t difficult for me; I knew engineering was for me so I knew what to pick. I always wanted to build or create things so after some time in a civil engineering and architect office I knew just designing wasn’t enough. I wanted to be able to see my idea exist in real life, I thrive on being able to point at something and say with pride “I made that.”
While studying for my A-Levels you could see a small divide with the males becoming passionate about wanting a ‘right answer’ subjects such as maths, science or product design. But that wasn’t to say the class was dominated by men, there were plenty of girls who took maths and science to help them into the engineering or medical world. I moved secondary schools to study my A levels. While I didn’t know many people and studied ‘male-dominated’ subjects I did not struggle in making female friends. At the end of the day, everyone is there to get the grades and progress onto their chosen career in life, gender doesn’t matter.
After my A levels I achieved a place to study Civil Engineering (Hons) at the University of Bolton. The course was definitely male-dominated, being one of the few girls it didn’t take long for everyone to learn my name, but thankfully I had no trouble settling in. From sharing notes to helping each other understand subjects, we worked as a team to help each other achieve our potential. Many of us have gone onto successful careers in civil engineering and still keep in touch and discuss the various projects we’re currently working on.
Some of my class mates have gone into small offices, some are carrying out research and some are out onsite everyday getting wet! I try to have the best of both worlds, with working outside and inside depending where the work is.
Many of my friends ask if it’s scary or intimidating working with men who are often much older than me, they have a mental image of men covered in mud who are over 6ft tall and covered in tattoos with bellowing voices with no volume control, but that isn’t the case. While it isn’t hard to be taller than me (since I’m only 5’5”) not a single one of my colleagues has ever personally caused me any issues. We’re all there to get the job done and we all take pride in our work. The team appreciate it’s my job to provide them with the information they need to do their job, so we work well together. I have learned so much while working out in the field, with plenty of people taking the time to explain processes to me even when the rain is pouring down.
Every day is different, with plans changing or problems arising, but it is a great job to keep you on your toes! Regardless of which path you take all I can say is enjoy it. If you wish to go in a male dominated world then go for it, there is more females in the industry than you think.
I’ve been involved in a lot of initiatives and programmes since starting with Carillion that focus on getting more girls and more young people into engineering – it’s really opened my eyes to how much some young people struggle with deciding where their future lies and how much professional insight – like mine – can really provide the inspiration to help them decide.
Engineering might be male-dominated right now, but I really think we’re starting to see the tides turn as more talented young women see the benefits of working in such an exciting industry – I would strongly recommend it.
Engineering is a rewarding industry, I guarantee you’ll never have a boring day and you will have the opportunity to make a difference.
* Tara is currently working on the £30m Morpeth Northern Bypass in Northumberland.