As a nod to International Women in Engineering Day this week, Severn Trent is showcasing its flagship £300M Birmingham Resilience Project. There is a female engineer at every level of the project, from project engineer, right up through programme director and the Head of Capital Delivery, to the Capital Delivery and Commercial Director and even right up to the CEO.
Jane Simpson, Head of Capital Delivery, said: “I am the head of capital delivery for Severn Trent, delivering £3 billion of capital schemes. The Birmingham Resilience Project is an amazing piece of work, and my largest, in terms of both what we’re trying to deliver, and to the women in particular who’re delivering it. This is our flagship programme, where we’re investing around £300M to make sure water supplies to Birmingham are more secure. It involves work on the existing Elan Valley Aqueduct, to keep the water flowing, and also building a brand new pipe, 26km from the River Severn into a brand new water treatment works in Birmingham. When the work is done, Birmingham will have a second back up water supply, making everything much more resilient.
“I love working on large infrastructure projects, you leave a legacy behind which I don’t think cares if you are male or female. As much as people say that engineering is still a “man’s job”, it doesn’t feel like that at Severn Trent. When you have senior women in organisations, it hopefully encourages more women to join and see the opportunity. However, outside Severn Trent it is still very male – the supply chain senior leaders are all male, as are the majority of their workforce. I have seen things change, but there still needs to be more women in engineering.
“I became an apprentice at the age of 16, not really because I wanted to be an engineer, but because I liked physics and maths, so my dad encouraged me to apply for apprenticeships. And I’d love it if more young women felt like this could be a career for them.”
Hayley Gladstone, Programme Director adds: “When I started my career, I went from an all-girls school to an apprenticeship, which being predominantly male was an uncomfortable transition. However, during my working life I’ve always gained the respect from my colleagues. Things have moved on massively in recent years, and it’s much easier interacting with the younger generation as they don’t see any difference between male and female, you’re just doing your job.
“I found it strange moving to Severn Trent to work on this project. I’d never had a female boss before and now the whole hierarchy is female! I do think it’s different in engineering these days, although it’s still predominantly male. But now that I’m working with a number of females, in senior positions on the project – I don’t see people as male or female I just admire people who do a good job.
“It’s definitely different working on a project where so many of the lead roles are taken up by women. But surprisingly the less emotional members of the team are the females!”
Jane finishes by saying: “I think that it’s amazing that we have so many women on this project. I’m really proud of the whole team for what they have delivered so far and how they are delivering the last bits of the project so that everything is ready for next year when it comes to an end and Birmingham’s water supplies will be much more secure.”