Happy International Women in Engineering Day!

This year’s International Women in Engineering Day celebrates the incredible contributions of women engineers worldwide. It highlights the best, brightest, and bravest women in the field, whose work enhances everyday lives and supports communities. Their efforts are building a brighter, more sustainable future, truly showcasing how our world is #enhancedbyengineering.
 
We’re delighted that we have so many incredible women in our team at OFR Consultants, and we’re proud to support the role of women in the industry through forums such as SheCanEngineer.
 
Here, Kate Swinburne – an associate director at OFR – talks about her and her female peers’ roles in the industry.

 
Today, we celebrate the 11th International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), honouring the achievements of women in engineering and highlighting the opportunities this field offers to young women and those seeking a career change from other industries.
 
For me, it’s also about recognising those who have supported us through our careers and who – alongside us – have recognised that equity does not always come without pushing for it.
 
A changing sector
I am delighted that my experience as a female engineer has been overwhelmingly positive. Whilst our industry may be male dominated, over my career I have seen good progress in terms of gender diversity. That intimidating feeling, I used to regularly experience of being “the only woman in the room” is much less stark. Thankfully the times of been talked over or ignored when there is a man in the room are now few and far between, although it can still happen. So, whilst it is sometimes uncomfortable, talking openly about these types of negative experiences is critical to enable us to push for that goal of equity.  
 
INWED for me is also a reminder to reflect on the positive influence of diversity in the workplace more widely. Our differences – professionally and personally – are what makes us a strong and versatile team. Healthy debate and disagreement fuels growth and new ideas. Actively seeking input from those who have different life experiences can push us not only to be better engineers, but also to be more compassionate and understanding people.
 
An inspiring workplace
Equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are fundamental principles at OFR, as they are at many other engineering organisations. At OFR, we celebrate and support everyone, regardless of gender or background. It’s a privilege to work with so many fantastic engineers from hugely diverse background and today is a great opportunity to highlight just a few of the fantastic women we have in our business today.
 
This year, we’ve seen Carmen Gorska winning the silver Thomas Philip Medal of Excellence for the paper she presented at the recent IAFSS conference in Japan. Janine Kayode, a past Women in Fire Safety Award winner, is now judging the annual WIFS awards, and our colleague Sam Bryant, a past recipient of the SFPE Award and a WIFS award is also a mental health first aider, ensuring anyone struggling with their mental health knows what support is available to them should they need it.
 
And then there’s my colleague and HR director, Lucy Kirkup, a consistently positive presence at OFR. Over the many years we’ve worked together, she has become a great friend, supporting me both personally and professionally. Above all, Lucy has played a crucial role in my growth and increasing self-confidence. Her encouragement has helped me openly discuss my career aspirations at OFR – something that doesn’t come naturally to me.
  
These women contribute to the supportive, inclusive culture at OFR. Our workplace achieves this by accommodating real-life challenges, such as balancing careers, personal lives and family, and we’re lucky to benefit from policies promoting flexibility and support.
 
At OFR, we also support pan-industry organisations who are pushing for positive change in this space. This week, that will include supporting SheCanEngineer in their INWED celebrations at BAFTA in London, a brilliant showcase of female talent. In recent months, we have also had training from like external experts to help us understand more about issues that specifically impact women such as menopause – with everyone in the business encouraged to attend these sessions.
 
Engaging our colleagues and being involved in industry wide events and organisations reminds us that not all role models come in the form of someone who looks like you, shares the same background as you or even does the same job as you – although these things can absolutely be important.
 
I take great pleasure in celebrating the achievements of my female colleagues and peers, and will ensure their input to our business and the wider engineering community is continually recognised as we all shape a more equal and inclusive engineering sector.

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Kate Swinburne

Associate

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