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International Women in Engineering Day 2020 – Australia

June 23, 2020

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, we're sharing some of our incredible staff stories to raise awareness and support the need for inclusion and diversity in engineering

Taking place on 23 June, this year's theme Shape the World aims to highlight and encourage the input women make to the industry. Here are some of the challenges and driving forces our women face by pursuing their career in engineering.

Celeste Ward, Process Engineer, Water

With a passion for designing sustainable solutions for the community and environment, Stantec’s Intermediate Process Engineer Celeste Ward believes women still must demonstrate their technical abilities within the workplace and require strong supporters to develop their professional careers.

“I feel women are held to a different standard in society and in the workplace. We need to do more to prove ourselves technically capable, more so than our male counterparts are required to do. This may often be a result of unconscious bias and it isn’t always present, but I believe women in particular need sponsors and advocates to progress in their career in water engineering.”

Celeste puts her best foot forward to overcome obstacles by appreciating the remarkable women and group of specialist leaders in her office who offer support and encouragement. As the Developing Professional Group’s Australia country lead, Celeste supports mentorship, peer-to-peer connection, and professional development opportunities.

“I’m personally overcoming this challenge by committing to my technical field and working hard to prove my capabilities on a detailed design project, of which I am the only woman in a design team of 25 people. I also look up to the amazing women in my office and broader network who are incredible technical leaders in the water industry,” she continues.

When asked what this year’s theme Shape the World means to her, Celeste points out that it’s still a long way to finding balance and is a collective obligation the community needs to change. Without this shift, the gender pay gap will continue leaving women behind and unable to achieve their aspirations. 

“I believe we need to shape the world to be inclusive of all communities, we all have a responsibility to ensure that our workplace culture is grounded in respect and inclusivity. For me, this means that everyone can achieve their career and life aspirations regardless of their gender. We still have a long way to go on this front, as currently in Australia the gender pay gap in the professional, scientific and technical services is 22.1% (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Australian Government Nov 2019). I want to excel in my profession and be a leader in the future. However, I currently feel that I won’t be able to reach my full professional potential if I choose to have a family in the future.”

Katherine Jones, Electrical Engineer, Buildings

Determined to find the best tailored solution for every project, Stantec’s Electrical Engineer Katherine Jones considers problem-solving to being a significant driver in bringing joy in her work.

“The constraints put on projects can seem unreasonable, and the frustration of trying to solve what seems like an unsolvable problem is what drives me. The challenge and the constant learning is unbelievably satisfying and exciting.”

A common trend felt by her working in a heavily dominated male workforce is the instant assumption people make on her job title and professional abilities as a woman which she finds hard to overcome.

"Being a female in the building services engineering can be both a challenge and an advantage - getting people to see me as an engineer and not just an assistant for a senior engineer is tough. This is not something I have completely overcome. Still, I am confident that my work and professionalism will speak for itself, and I’m lucky in many other ways. I have amazing mentors supporting and guiding me a on how to deal with situations.”

As a female engineer, she brings an attention to detail in her designs from the female lens.

“I make sure that both a male and females' comfort are considered when doing my designs by creating concepts most people can use while encouraging inclusivity and equality.”

She is grateful to be surrounded by resilient women and competent leaders who encourage everyone to be their best.

“My office leader does a spectacular job of making me feel valued. He is genuinely excited and proud when either myself or a colleague (male or female) achieves a milestone or goal that he can share with our wider work community. My immediate work colleagues in our electrical section support me and make me feel valued and are quick with a congratulations or great job".

Jade Warbrooke, Senior Transportation Engineers, Transportation

There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer when it comes to projects which is what empowers Stantec’s Senior Transportation Engineer Jade Wardbrooke to make a difference in her work as an engineer.

“I love the challenge of the work I do as an engineer; problem solving where no two issues are exactly the same and working within diverse teams to develop unique solutions. Then ultimately, there‘s the satisfaction of the reward where your designs get implemented to address specific issues while improving the lives of people in the community.”

Representing a minority group, she understands inequality is not limited to gender, but extends to opportunities for people from various cultures and/or socio-economic status as well. Jade realises that to overcome these imbalances it’s critical to be aware of who you are as this fulfils your identity to others.

“It would be naïve of me to say that everyone is treated and respected equally—not just based on gender but ethnicity, socio-economic status, and age amongst others. I’m aware that I represent a minority and my ongoing challenge is overcoming the assumed perceptions that question my ability before I’ve even lifted a pen. Overcoming the imbalance on the playing field is to know who you are and what you’re worth before you step out on it. I have a strong sense of identity and peace of mind in my worth so for every day and every project, it’s about bringing my a-game and performing to the best of my ability, not because I need to, but because that’s who I am.”

Jade acknowledges the support her husband provides in helping their family find balance with her work and home life, crediting his contribution as a reason to do her best.

“My husband is very supportive, so we navigate through a fairly routine-oriented day to provide stability and shared involvement. Time management is critical, and I credit my husband for the majority of my success as he is the one that holds the fort so that I am better able to perform."

We asked Jade what the significance of this year’s #INWED20 theme means to her in the work she does.

“Engineering, by its very nature is shaping the world so it is an industry I have a huge amount of respect for and am humbled to be a part of. However, to best serve the communities we represent, we need to start looking like these communities. I am a part of this industry to challenge the status quo and to be an example for my daughter to stand up and make a difference where one needs to be made. In saying this, I aspire to see more women not just in the industry, but at all levels and all fronts of the corporate organisational chart. As I have progressed through each career level, I see fewer women in roles of authority. I believe that to shape the world, we need to be authentic and have equal representation of women at the executive level, where corporate vision and direction are birthed. After all, this is where the rules of the game are made.” 

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