To mark Women in Engineering Day we spoke to Méabh, a Chartered Engineer based in our Galway office. She has over nine years’ experience working on infrastructure and concrete frame projects in Ireland, the UK and Australia.
When did you decide to become an engineer?
I decided to do engineering by process of elimination more than anything! I enjoyed maths at school and it was probably my best subject, so a few people recommended engineering to me. I wasn’t entirely sure what an engineer did – there seemed to be a lot of options, so I picked an undenominated course to start and chose civil after a year of trying out the different disciplines.
What do you enjoy most about being an engineer?
I like working on big projects and physically seeing the change they bring about. On a recent trip to London, I drove on the M18 to Shannon and flew into Terminal 2 at Heathrow. They are both landmark projects that I spent a number of years working on in different capacities.
I faced a lot of challenges when working on the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre – not least that the project completely flooded for several weeks at one stage! But it looks great now and is a really iconic building in the centre of Brisbane - one that I can be proud to have been a part of.
I think visibility of a diverse engineering population is important so people don’t feel they are “going against the grain” in becoming an engineer.
How has the industry changed during your career?
I think the construction industry has come forward a lot in terms of health and safety since I started. My first project was a company “exemplar project” which trialled the wearing of gloves and safety glasses at all times on site. That’s now the standard across most large projects. The introduction of Eurocodes has also been a big change in the industry.
BIM and 3D modelling are looking like the next big change that is underway. It is time that civil engineering caught up with other industries in this regard but it is a long process!
What advice would you give to a young woman now if she was considering a career in engineering?
The same advice I would give to a young man! I think liking problem solving and a general aptitude for maths are important. There are a lot of options, so even within civil engineering you can change between quite varied careers.
What can be done to encourage more gender balance in engineering?
I think subject choice at secondary school level is important. If people don’t have the options at that stage it may hinder their career path. I was fortunate that I could choose physics at second level (though not applied maths or tech. graphics) and was encouraged to explore all career options through events such as career nights.
I think visibility of a diverse engineering population is important so people don’t feel they are “going against the grain” in becoming an engineer. I didn’t really realise how few women were in civil engineering and construction until I became involved myself but it has never been a problem.