WSP engineers share experiences to mark International Women in Engineering Day

Katrina Speirs (far left) with other female engineers at WSP
Katrina Speirs (far left) with other female engineers at WSP

Three female engineers are sharing their experiences for International Women in Engineering Day in the hope that more women and girls will consider a career in the industry.

With 7000 employees across the UK, female engineers currently account for 27% of WSP’s workforce, which is above the national average of 9%.

Mhairi Hawksworth, 24, from Irvine, is a graduate engineer at the global professional consultancy and recently completed her Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) ambassador training.

Since joining the company’s graduate scheme, Mhairi has had the opportunity to work on a variety of different projects in the rail industry, including the design and build of the Edinburgh Gateway train station.

Mhairi Hawksworth – graduate engineer at WSP
Mhairi Hawksworth – graduate engineer at WSP

Mhairi said: “I was really lucky to have a lot of encouragement in science at school and because of this I went on to study for a Masters in civil engineering at Strathclyde University, where I was one of just six girls on the course.

“My role is extremely varied, especially working with the rail team where I do everything from outline design to construction support. Engineering can be seen as a very male-dominated industry, but I’ve yet to experience any negative treatment or discrimination and I’ve never felt like a minority in the workplace. Everywhere I’ve worked has been a very positive environment.

“We need to actively change females’ perception of STEM careers. There is a world of opportunity out there for young women and the industry is missing a lot of talent. The diversity of engineering is just incredible. Young women (and men) need to be shown that engineering is for everyone.”

Katrina Speirs, 33 from Glasgow joined WSP three years ago as an associate and has progressed to become an associate director within the fire engineering team.

She said: “As a fire engineer, I ensure that the design of a building, whether it’s a hospital, school or an office, allows for an evacuation should a fire occur. I work closely with a team of architects, contractors and developers to design strategies that protect people and property from the effects of fire and smoke.

“Engineering is a career that can take you all over the world, and at the same time, you can take pride in the fact that you are really making a difference.”

A director with the company, Julia Gilles, 47, attributes a solid network, hard-work and strong self-belief as key factors to being a successful woman in the engineering sector.

Julia said: “WSP are great to work for - they recognise that it’s about the skills that someone can bring to the role, not about the gender of that person.

“Being a mum and having a career in this industry can be challenging, so having an employer who recognises that is important. My advice to any woman looking to have a successful career in engineering is to establish a strong network, find a mentor who will support you and champion you within your firm and believe in yourself.”

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