Women in Engineering

Project Manager Juliet Archer-Reeves joined Pell Frischmann recently and shares her unusual journey into engineering, her time so far with Pell Frischmann, and her views on being a woman in engineering.

My background

The road less travelled

“With my initial degree in English Literature and MA in 18th Century Literature, you could say my journey into engineering was an unusual one. Upon leaving university, I worked in finance for a year before deciding to retrain as a civil engineer.”

So, why change to engineering?

“Having a chartered engineer for a father meant I was heavily exposed to the world of engineering. I was always interested in how things worked and enjoyed taking things apart and re-joining them as a kid, so rather than a big leap, entering the world of civil engineering felt like a natural step.

“I gained a role as a trainee technician whilst studying part time at university. After a year of working, I knew engineering was my calling. With a passion for engineering, I progressed from an engineering assistant to assistant engineer to engineer, working my way up from a team member to team leader on safety audits as well as designing and delivering my own highway schemes.”

Finding Pell Frischmann

“As my interest headed towards the handling of projects, an opportunity came along to work for Pell Frsichmann as Project Manager. Since working here no day has been like any other, jobs vary from speaking with designers regarding transport assessments and traffic plans to co-ordinating with clients, guiding them through the process to achieving their aspirations.

“The good thing about them are the collaboration that takes place through the teams, the ability to work with a geotechnical and modelling team based in Wakefield and a highways team in Birmingham allows an efficient communication share between all branches.

“It’s about problem solving. Engineers want to solve a problem and understand how things work, and the best way we do that is by talking the problem through, putting forward and embracing people’s ideas, building on them and coming together with a solution. Pell Frischmann have been fantastic with that.”

Women in engineering

Last year upon achieving my NEC ECC project management accreditation, I realised I was the only woman in my course group of 16. Coming out of major meetings, again I was the only woman. I remember reading an article in the New Civil Engineer (NCE) magazine that showed most girls between the age 15-18 didn’t see civil engineering as an attractive or suitable job for a woman.

I found that quite sad to hear because the women I know in engineering are all passionate about our subject, and enjoy it. I have never experienced any sexism in the workplace or on site, even when at times I was the only woman on site.

Engineering is so varied, and I have been lucky to have experienced diverse areas within it. There is this misnomer that you are out there getting muddy every day, which is not true.

So, can that message get through to girls?

Yes, there are several ways to combat this problem.

“Having young female engineers going into schools teaching kids about engineering and the opportunities available can start to help change mistaken perceptions.

“But, it goes further than that, I was not just given dolls to play with, I had toy cars, played outside and participated in practical activities, I was never brought up to think that I had any limitations on me apart from my own sense of self. You are your only limit, and that starts very early in what girls think they can achieve and do. We have to go back that far so that when those girls are young women they don’t see that any career is gendered.

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