A woman in a high-vis jacket and a hard hat holds a clipboard and smiles at the camera.
Image: Eve Cassidy

Why women in engineering need to be more visible

2 Mar 2021

Kirby Group Engineering’s Eve Cassidy wants to see more women in the engineering industry. Here, she shares her own experience in the sector.

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One exciting aspect of my job is not knowing what I’ll be doing in five years’ time. You might not realise it but, as a civil engineer, my expertise can mould into anything. You could travel anywhere around the world and find someone who trained in civil engineering before transferring that experience to a really wide variety of roles.

Engineering offers a diverse, exciting, challenging and fulfilling career. There is absolutely no reason why women shouldn’t be top-class engineers, and I’m here to prove it. So why aren’t there more of us? Just 10pc of my university graduating class was made up of females.

Recent figures from the Central Statistics Office showed Ireland is a shining light when it comes to STEM graduates in Europe. We had the highest rate of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates anywhere in the EU in 2018.

Still, we let ourselves down badly on the gender divide. In the same year, there were 47.3 male STEM graduates per 1,000 in Ireland compared to 23 females. That compares with the EU average of 25.6 male graduates and 13.4 female graduates per 1,000.

I do believe the interest is there among female students to consider a future in engineering, so maybe it simply needs more encouragement. I spoke at a careers evening at my old school last year and there was plenty of positive feedback among female students. I believe there’s still a lot of pressure on young women to do certain courses and fulfil certain roles, despite influencers and personalities telling them to ‘be themselves’ and ‘follow their dream’.

‘Any time I meet someone with an interest in engineering, I say go for it.’

What I do know would help to boost numbers is simply seeing more women in these roles. It sounds simplistic but it really does break down barriers. The courses and speakers we had access to in school, particularly in transition year, were integral to helping me form an idea of what I wanted, and I think the success of campaigns in other industries has proven that ‘if she can’t see it, she can’t be it’.

My employer, Kirby Group Engineering, invited me to get on board with an advertising campaign a couple of years ago to help recruit more engineers, particularly female ones. My friends love to slag me about it every time it pops up online or in the paper, but I did feel a duty to pay forward the benefit I got from the role models I had, and visibly show people it’s OK to be a woman in engineering, it’s normal, and it’s a brilliant career path!

Any time I meet someone with an interest in engineering, I say go for it. The more experience I gain, the more perspective I have on how varied the roles can be within the sector.

I’m a civil engineer by qualification but my University of Limerick (UL) course introduced us to all areas – civil, mechanical and electrical – before we needed to choose a specialty.

It didn’t surprise my family that civil was my first pick. As a kid, I was interested in buildings, bridges and all kinds of structures. I was out on my tractor when I was four, checking around the house, and in secondary school I loved maths and technical graphics.

I first came to Kirby Group Engineering via a placement in third year and that allowed me to work with the other engineering disciplines again as part of a large company with projects right across Europe.

The programme was excellent and even offered the opportunity to travel to London and Scotland and see projects in the flesh that we had worked with on-screen back in the office. The experience gave me a whole new perspective on the job and its potential diversity.

When my time at UL came to an end, I joined Kirby’s graduate programme. Our civil engineering team within power transmission and distribution business unit acts almost as a middleman between the site and the project designer. I see a lot of my friends from other companies out on site all day, but I’m definitely glad I split my time between the office and sites, especially in the winter months.

Each project I contribute to is a learning experience. A few years into my engineering career, I’m still learning and developing skills I never thought I’d have. Having seen it, I knew I could be it and thanks to my mentors at school, college and at Kirby, I’m progressing in my career all the time.

Here’s hoping many more young women across Ireland will get the same message and we’ll be welcoming them into the industry in the years to come.

By Eve Cassidy

Eve Cassidy is a civil engineer in Kirby Group Engineering.

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