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Engineering is for girls

June 14, 2016

Janice Smith and Donna MacKenzie discuss their passion for the engineering industry and encouraging more women to consider it as a career

Janice Smith and Donna MacKenzie joined Stantec this week having worked together successfully as engineering professionals for the last six years.

They are both passionate about the industry and particularly in encouraging more women to consider engineering as a career—which we each pursued with little to no advice in our early education, at an age that would have assisted us in decision making.

They are both structural engineers following a natural ability in mathematics at school and the aspiration to study a vocational degree. Donna's father is a structural engineer, so she was aware of the industry from a young age. She chose to study Structural Engineering with Architecture because she had an interest in design, but enjoyed and excelled at mathematics and physics in high school.

Good mathematics and management abilities are common traits in girls and are vital skills for a career in engineering. Janice had a natural ability for mathematics and enjoyed management studies at school, so the careers advisor encouraged her to consider engineering or quantity surveying. Following a Women in Industry event and some encouragement from family, Janice chose a degree in Civil Engineering.

They both enjoy being engineers, which gives us a variety of challenges. Our daily work consists of a combination of maths, physics, communication, problem solving and management. They enjoy the blend of team working and technical problem solving. They have worked together on a number of successful and enjoyable projects; including several schools, residential developments, a research facility and the temporary works for the new V&A museum in Dundee.

Being women in the construction industry has its challenges, but these are becoming fewer. Attitudes in the construction industry are changing, as they are generally, to be more inclusive. As such, more women are being accepted into roles, where they are successfully proving their abilities and striving to progress, which is breaking the 'glass ceiling'.

There has been a significant increase in the number of women in industry since Janice graduated in 2001, with a marked improvement in the inclusion and acceptance of women in the industry. They are both STEM ambassadors and are keen to promote engineering as a choice for girls.

We are delighted that more women are choosing a degree and a career in engineering. However, there is much more to be done, with women still making up a small minority of the construction industry. We need to progress to a position where there is a balanced work force, including more women in high-level positions.

Originally published by PBA, now Stantec.

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