Like many of my female peers who graduated in the early 2000s, I was one of just a few women in the industry at the time. Working in a male dominated sector quickly became my normal, but it wasn’t without its trials. Rather than allow myself to be limited by the lack of representation, I used the challenges I encountered to motivate me to succeed and demonstrate my worth in whatever project or role I found myself in.
In particular, working on a construction site helped to shape the resilience and drive that I have today; I learned early on how to face challenges with conviction and to gain the respect I deserved as an engineer. Fortunately, gender-related challenges are far fewer today, although the industry must remain vigilant in ensuring inclusivity.
At the beginning of my career, I focused on gaining experience across a range of roles and responsibilities and enjoyed the breadth of learning that came with undertaking highly varied tasks. It was through exploring different facets of civil engineering that I found a deep interest in the field of geotechnics. Understanding how the ground below impacts the structures above intrigues me as do the technical challenges posed by the highly varied ground conditions that we build upon. It was at COWI that I was able to explore geotechnics in great detail and also where I built up my project management expertise through delivering multi-disciplinary projects.
I took up a leadership position as Regional Director for our Scottish business which ultimately led to an opportunity within the business to take on my current role as Vice President of COWI UK Limited, which forms part of COWI International business.
Throughout my time here, I have learned to embrace change and take on every new challenge that I have faced. In each of the positions I have held, I have been surrounded by truly inspiring and talented engineering teams from whom I have been able to learn. I am motivated by seeing my team develop and improve – I found that being a successful leader is about adapting your leadership style to connect with those around you, while remaining true to oneself. Team management and development, project delivery and client satisfaction are all intrinsically connected to fulfilling the needs of our clients. In the same vein, having a diverse leadership team, including women, contributes to producing the best results for the unique, and highly complex engineering projects that we deliver.
It’s clear that the industry still has work to do to address the gender imbalance, encouraging women into management positions is just one of the ways that we can motivate and inspire the next generation of engineers. Supporting a good work life balance, ensuring employees feel valued, providing learning opportunities and championing strong support networks are all key to ensuring that all engineers – regardless of gender – can rise to the challenges of their roles.
Eva MacInnes, VP at COWI UK