Ever thought about a career in engineering? As only 7% of UK engineers are women, you probably haven’t. We actually have the fewest female engineers in the whole of Europe! Claire Gott MBE, 26, is on a mission to change that.
Claire is a Civil Engineer at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff and she was actually awarded an MBE for her services to both civil engineering and charitable work in Cameroon. Here she chats to List for Life about how she got into engineering and why she thinks more women need to enter the industry.
1. How did you get to where you are today?
From a young age I always had a desire to make a difference. Ultimately that was why I studied engineering and architecture at university, a decision encouraged by a school trip aged 17 to Africa. We went on safari, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro but we also helped refurbish an orphanage in Tanzania. I was studying physics, design technology and maths but realised from that just how valuable practical skills could be. The breadth of study also helped me realise that my skills were more aligned to being an engineer than architect – I’m the kind of person who likes a yes or no answer and to come up with practical solutions.
I joined WSP| Parsons Brinckerhoff as a Graduate Engineer in their Birmingham office. I had worked with contractor Costain on summer placements at University but I decided I wanted to be at the front end of construction projects. WSP|PB was working on some amazing projects when I was looking for my first post – not least the Shard and it had some strong core values including support for sustainability which attracted me. I spent three years working on some great projects such as the Cambridge Fire Station, Alder Hay Hospital and Birmingham Gateway. But I wanted to move into design management and schemes where I could use all my skills and work with a full multi-disciplinary team. In 2013 I joined the WSP|PB Design Management Team at London Bridge Station redevelopment, to lead a mixed disciplinary team of 15.
2. What has been the highlight of your career so far, a “pinch me” moment?
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Receiving a national honour from the HRH Prince Charles – another enthusiastic supporter of Africa – has to be the highlight of my career! Having co-founded charity Cameroon Catalyst in 2009 whilst at University, its fantastic to see the projects delivered being recognised for their positive impacts on villagers in rural North East Cameroon. From work with one village in Cameroon – Bambouti – the charity is now helping ten more and is partnered with international architecture organisation Article 25 and Hydrogeologists without Borders. WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff has become a corporate member of Article 25 and is now closely involved with the work being done by Cameroon Catalyst.
3. What would your advice be to aspiring female civil engineers?
Always follow your passions!
4. Have you found it difficult being a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Personally, being a women in construction has never been an issue. I think there is a big misconception that engineering is hugely male dominated and a dirty industry. In fact, the number of women joining the industry is on the up and the diversity of roles available appeals to a vast array of skill sets! I am very fortunate to work for a firm where diversity is encouraged with one fifth of our engineers being female.
5. Why do you think female graduates should go into the engineering industry?
I would encourage the next generation – men and women – to follow a career in engineering and have the opportunity to get involved in some of the most exciting and challenging projects shaping our industry now and in the future, at home and overeas.
Find out more about Claire Gott here