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Feminism and pride: key engineer qualities

Mark Hansford

There’s an awful lot to digest in NCE this week (we reckon it’s our biggest issue ever), and I’d of course invite you to read it all: incorporating our future-looking Infrastructure in 2015 report, we hope you’ll find it packed full of inspiring ideas around future technologies and technical excellence.

But if you need help getting started, I’d urge you to kick off by reading about our Graduates of the Year. They are truly extraordinary people. They are truly inspiring. And they have such valuable messages for us all.

Take our ultimate winner, Atkins graduate water engineer Sophie McPhillips. Currently representing charity Engineers Without Borders in The Gambia, she offers an astonishingly refreshing view on why technical excellence should matter so much to all civil engineers.

equality ident

During her three month placement, she is working with non-governmental organisation Africa Water Enterprises to provide clean, safe water to 10,000 people in rural villages.

Her frustration, in discovering in her first month that many of the water pumps had been so poorly installed that they were effectively mosquito breeding grounds, is palpable. She has vowed to fix the problem - and fixing it she is - right now. But she is clear - it shouldn’t have been done wrong in the first place. Engineering is about getting it right.

She has another important message for us too. Speaking up as a proud feminist, she urges more industry bosses to take the positive step and speak up too. And so it is great that this week we at NCE can reveal more senior industry leaders, including Environment Agency chief executive Paul Leinster, calling themselves feminists and in doing so declaring themselves supporters of NCE’s Engineering Equality campaign.

You can read the full list on page five, and you can read much more about why it matters so much to us in our Infrastructure in 2015 report.

Our other graduate winners have important messages too. Take Amey graduate engineer Mike Frazer. He firmly believes that when it comes to promoting our profession, the buck stops firmly with you - the professionals. “It isn’t just about placing a few enthusiastic engineers in schools - we need to engage and communicate what we do, rather than [only] making [it into] the press when something fails or our works cause added congestion,” he says.

I totally concur with him. Because my experience is that the media world is changing. While rightly holding people and organisations to account when there is failure, it actually wants to see success. Which is handy, as we’re not so much about offering up failure anymore. We can actually show and share our success.

So then, in our looking to the future issue, here are my two challenges for 2015. One: have a bit more pride; a bit more swagger; be like Frazer and show off a bit more. And two? Simple: be like McPhillips; declare yourself a feminist.

Enjoy your bumper NCE, have a very Merry Christmas and we’ll see you in the New Year.

  • Mark Hansford is NCE’s editor

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