In support of International Women in Engineering Day (#INWED20), we're celebrating some of our most talented women. In the first blog of the series, meet Laura, Team Leader for the Infrastructure Risk & Safety team in Transportation. She joined Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, in 2009. 11 years on, her career to date demonstrates the variety a career in Railway Engineering can provide. She's developed mainline rail telecommunications and electrical designs, analyzed operational risk in preparation for London 2012, and assessed maintainability for London Underground. Her work developing risk assessment models has seen her deliver on HS2, the UK's light rail industry, the Emirates Air Line cable car, and Eurotunnel.
In her current role, Laura provides Engineering Safety Management for multidisciplinary rail projects and guides them through safety legislation. This sees her leading workshops and working with designers, operators and maintainers to ensure schemes are safe by design.
Laura has delivered #IamRemarkable sessions to Atkins London's Women's professional network, empowering our women to challenge their perceptions around self-promotion. She's also an active member of Young Rail Professionals, which promotes careers in the railway industry and develops the next generation of railway talent.
The theme of INWED2020 is #ShapeTheWorld. What kind of world would you like to see for women in engineering?
The stereotypes long forgotten, and a career in engineering accessible and prized by all wanting the opportunity to shape our world and affect our everyday lives.
Which route did you take into your engineering career?
I chose to study Engineering at university as a practical application and a combination of the subjects I was studying at school. When it came to starting my career, I knew I wanted to stay in engineering so that I could positively impact people's everyday lives. I found myself in the railway industry, and since then, it's been a series of gradual opportunities that have led me to my current role.
What do you find rewarding about what you do?
I'd never considered a career in rail until I found it had chosen me. I'm still in our industry today because of the remarkable people and the interesting, challenging work that makes a palpable difference to millions of lives.
How has your experience been as a woman in the industry? Is it what you expected, for better or for worse?
When I started out in engineering and the rail industry, I fully expected a male-dominated environment. Unfortunately, it's still not surprising for me to be the only woman in meetings. However, I 've never felt that being a woman has prevented me from doing my job or made me feel unsupported to succeed. I do also feel there's been a small shift over recent years – while not representative of the industry as a whole, approximately a third of my current team are women.
What would you say to young women reading this?
Seek out and put yourself forward for the opportunities that interest you – it is after all your career that can benefit.
Why are diversity and inclusion important to the engineering industry?
Increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace has shown to attract and retain staff, enable them to perform at their best, promote innovation and deliver better outcomes. Action is essential for an industry facing increasing demands and a perpetuating skills shortage.
How do you champion equality, diversity and inclusion in your role?
I get involved with initiatives and organizations which look to put diversity and inclusion on the agenda. As a team leader, creating an inclusive culture is extremely important to me for my team's well-being and success. I also try to remind myself to recognize and address my own unconscious bias and seek information to inform myself of the challenges others may face.
What's one action that people can take to help make a career in STEM a more attractive choice for women?
Speaking about our work can challenge misconceptions and showcase our exciting and complex industry to girls, parents and teachers. Sharing the great career opportunities provides young women with information and options that they may not have even been aware of.