International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day 2021

In our special guest Blog to mark International Women’s Day 2021 (8th March), Bobi Archer, tells us about her journey into civil engineering.

Bobi, who works for Barhale Ltd, is CECA Scotland’s Trainee Civil Engineer of the Year for 2020. (Watch the Awards ceremony here).

My Journey into Civil Engineering

With a background in Mathematics and a passion for the outdoors, I was eager to find a career which allowed me to flourish in an environment incorporating both.

Site Engineering not only harnesses these desires but also provides an opportunity to indulge in mathematical theory, whilst applying it to real life contexts and this is the hook for me.

It still amazes me that I functioned in a society, completely oblivious to the underground world of infrastructure that exists beneath us. The very infrastructure that provides me with the motivation and purpose of delivering successful projects which will provide benefit to communities for decades to come.

My initial interaction with the industry began when I heard of a local contractor, Crummock offering opportunities to gain work experience. After a successful interview, I shadowed one of their Senior Engineers, which then resulted in securing a Trainee position. The position was to begin upon completion of my Sabbatical year but unfortunately they became insolvent shortly thereafter. Whilst facing a challenging period both personally and throughout the wider business, the Senior Management within the company were a pillar of support in helping me to obtain another position. They had collaborated with CECA to distribute my CV amongst their network and I was successfully recruited by Barhale as a Graduate Engineer.

I feel if there’s anything to take away from my experience, it’s that there isn’t one set route into engineering.

In fact, I would so strongly state that it is from these unique experiences and differing backgrounds that we as an industry can be successful in the ambition to be forward-thinking and progressive. As with any industry, diversity is the key to success.

To encourage new ways of problem-solving, a combination of unique perspectives and mind-sets are required to form the best idea or solution. Therefore, by encouraging more women, as well as individuals from a range of ethnic, economic and social backgrounds to continue with their STEM studies and to consider a career in Engineering, it will provide an opportunity for wider thinking and to make further advances within the wider realm of construction.

As outlined in the CECA Awards video, I feel that it’s important to engage with individuals and collaborate with academic institutions, support groups and charities to promote STEM subjects and the world of engineering. I’m privileged to be surrounded by a wealth of support in addressing this at Barhale, by volunteering as a STEM Ambassador and supporting their ‘Bridges to Schools’ initiative. This introduces students, at an early stage in their academic careers to the basic principles in bridge design and collaborative working.

Secondly, I feel it’s fundamental that we are truly accessible to under-represented groups by reducing stigmas, stereotypes and the unconscious bias that exists within recruitment processes. Utilising pro-diversity language in job descriptions, scripted interviews to review performance and not common ground, diverse interview panels and taking ownership of the HR process internally are all tell-tale signs of true accessibility and a company’s investment into diversifying their workforce.

On the other hand, if the women’s toilet on site resembles the cleaner’s closet, then I’d highly recommend re-evaluating that investment (and purchasing a garden shed on Ebay for £25 – plenty space for a mop bucket or two!).

Lastly, I feel it’s ensuring that women are truly integrated into their teams and the company to promote their value. If you ask me, it’s a bit of a wasted investment to secure something, to then lose it not long thereafter?

Through promoting this value and instilling a sense of self-belief, such as within the ‘Source, Train and Retain’ strategy at Barhale, we will hopefully be able to retain women in the industry, to inspire the next generation of engineers and enable the industry as a whole to be innovative by thriving upon diversity.

We have also produced a special video in which Bobi outlines how the construction industry can meet and overcome the diversity challenges it currently faces.

(Thanks again to QTS Group for sponsoring the 2020 CECA Scotland Most Promising Awards)

Watch Bobi speak about how to encourage more women into engineering and STEM careers here: