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Ex-ICE vice president wins top businesswoman prize

ICE Fellow Michelle McDowell has been named Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the year.

Low-carbon credentials

BDP’s chair of civil and structural engineering was singled out for work on low-carbon building and promoting engineering as a career for all.

“I’m absolutely delighted. It’s an opportunity for a fantastic platform,” said McDowell.

Among the projects she has worked on are the recent revamp of Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club.

She was also the driving force behind a £70M redevelopment of the Royal Albert Hall in London.

‘Fluke’ career choice

McDowell, from Coleraine, Northern Ireland, began her career more than 25 years ago, after being persuaded into the arena by what she calls “a fluke”.

At McDowell’s school, careers advisers tended to push girls who were good at maths into medicine, but she wanted to “do something creative and practical”. When her father brought home a leaflet on a residential school for engineers, she signed up for the week in Sheffield.

During that week, everything “just fell into place” for her about how she could use the subjects she enjoyed.

“Women are scarce, perhaps it’s the image of construction − dirty, muddy boots; an unreconstructed working environment”

Michelle McDowell

McDowell is known for her conviction that architects and engineers thinking together from the start of a project can produce better building design − a belief that she has brought to projects which include new schools for deprived areas across the UK.

“We are delighted that the judges have selected a winner who fully embraces the nature of the awards and can provide inspiration for other up and coming entrepreneurs,” said Veuve Clicquot brand director Elsa Corbineau

“Michelle has proven that commercial success can be achieved alongside acting as an ethical business and it is wonderful to see a stand out business woman actively championing the next generation of female entrepreneurs.”

“Women are scarce”

McDowell says she has had to work hard to promote engineering for women and women within engineering.

“Women are scarce, perhaps it’s the image of construction − dirty, muddy boots; an unreconstructed working environment. But now the image is transforming, even on site.

“I’ve had to show a level of determination and hard work and make it easier for others to come through − through encouragement and bursaries.

Even just two weeks in a design office or on a construction site can make it gel that it’s a career for someone rather than something to settle for,” she added.

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