We’re celebrating International Women in Engineering Day today. Set up in 2014 to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the Women’s Engineering Society this national, now international, awareness day focuses attention on the amazing careers in engineering and technical roles for girls, and allows us to celebrate the achievements of our outstanding women engineers.
At Green Frog Connect we want to overcome the perception that engineering is a man’s world. It shouldn’t be about gender, but about passion for a subject. The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in the whole of Europe, and 90% of those who choose to study the subject at university are male. With an overall shortage of engineers entering the profession, it’s increasingly important that we attract and retain women into an industry which has been traditionally male dominated.
There is still much to be done to work towards solving the gender imbalance in engineering. It won’t be simple and will require the efforts of society as a whole. We’ve taken the opportunity to talk to Rebecca Lewis, our Head of Safety, Health, Environment and Quality, about how she came to be immersed in the energy world.
Why did you want to get into energy and engineering?
I have always been interested in energy and engineering. My father was an electronics engineer so was always fixing things while I was growing up! I have always been interested in the environment and technology, and after finishing university I joined a utilities company in Cardiff. This taught me a lot about electric, gas and water networks and how the grid system works in general. I later joined a connections company who specialised in renewable energy connections.
How did you get into the role you are in now?
Having worked in various roles in the utilities industry, I had an opportunity about 6 years ago to complete the NEBOSH general certificate. I really enjoyed the course and so followed this up by looking for a role in Health and Safety. A couple of years later, I was approached by a recruiter for a Project Manager role in Green Frog Connect, which ended up being a part compliance and part Project Manager role and suited me perfectly at the time. There were only four of us back then so we had to wear many hats! As the company grew, my role developed into Head of SHEQ, and now I manage all of the Health, Safety, Environmental and Quality aspects of the business.
What appeals to you about H&S?
I’ve always been passionate about business processes and the impact of these on business success. Health and Safety management has the same structure where getting the processes and procedures right can greatly affect the chances of everyone going home safely from work. There has been an enormous culture change in the UK since I first graduated, and I enjoy being part of the process. Gradually, people are starting to realise that spending a bit more time on health and safety means that they can actually save time and money in the long run, as well as become more compliant, rather than see it as a burden.
How has the workplace changed in terms of diversity since you started your career?
The workplace is definitely much more diverse than when I started my career. Over the past few years it has become more common to see women out on site, however I still think there is a long way to go. Sometimes I will go to industry forums or meetings and be the only woman present, which I think is a shame. I believe there is likely to be a significant shift in the next few years though, particularly in the health and safety industry, as “soft skills” are becoming more and more important and valued by employers, and women tend to demonstrate these skills more effectively.
What gives you the biggest buzz in terms of coming into work?
Being able to make a difference. As the company is still relatively small, I am able to communicate directly with everyone within the business, from the Managing Director to the subcontractors. My ideas are listened to and I am fortunate that a great number of them have been implemented successfully. I’m also hoping to complete my NVQ Diploma this month, which will enable me to start working towards my IOSH Chartership, which will be another great achievement.
What is the biggest project you have been part of?
I think developing the management systems for the business from a very simple system from the days when we acted solely as a connections contractor for EPC contractors, to where we are now acting as Principal Contractor for a variety of multi-million pound contracts. As part of this, I supported the business in achieving the Lloyds Accreditations for construction and design back in the early days, and more recently the implementation of the ISO 901, OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001 accreditations.