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How Katy Toms will #PressForProgress this International Women's Day

A lot of people question, why do we celebrate International Women’s Day? Its 2018! International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over a hundred years, recognising the achievements of women, while also continuing to shine a light on the inequalities women still face around the world.


It’s 2018 and somehow this year feels like we’ve upped the ante. This year feels a little more special. We entered 2018 on the back of the #metoo campaign, leading to #timeisup movement. We are celebrating the 100 year anniversary of some women in the UK receiving the ability to vote and the deadline for companies to publish their gender pay gap information is looming. This year’s theme of #PressForProgress does seem very apt.

For a woman working in the construction sector, what does this all mean to me? Well, every day, working in what is still considered a male dominated environment has its challenges, starting with women who are still reluctant to join the industry. If you search online for the top 10 construction companies’ websites, you might have a hard job finding a female face. I think that one of the main challenges of working in a male dominated environment is the fear of not seeing another woman like you.

I was first inspired to become an engineer after stumbling across a television show about the Falkirk Wheel. Whilst the structure was impressive, it still felt far removed from anything I could imagine achieving, but what hooked me was seeing the transformation of the area and the positive impacts that the structure created.. Without having such a strong and positive female role model (my long suffering mum), I could easily have been deterred away from the industry but, no one told me I couldn’t do it. The rest they say, is history!

Fast forward to 2017, I was privileged to be selected as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering under 35 and it felt amazing to gain that level of recognition on a personal level for what I have done within the industry to date. More recently though, I have also had the privilege of seeing two of the female summer placement students I’ve worked with over the years flourish into fantastic graduate engineers. I am proud to have had a positive impact on their development.

My advice to aspiring female engineers is that this industry is unequivocally a place where you can flourish. When you join us, be unashamedly yourself. Your uniqueness is what makes you an asset to the construction industry and never try to change who you are to fit in. Find your cheerleaders, there are role models everywhere and many women, and men, are ready to support you. I would especially encourage other female engineers to be visible, be a role model and be the person you may have needed when you were starting out in the industry. You do not have to have a title to be a leader and make a change and a difference.

This year I plan to support #PressForProgress by being a role model for the changes I wish to see in the industry. I will:

●       Be myself, and not bow down to the pressures of ‘fitting in’,

●       Showcase the fantastic achievements of women, and men, as loudly and as proudly as I can,

●       Maintain a gender parity mind-set

Michelle Obama recently said, ‘there is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish’, I often say that engineers transform the world around us; let’s make 2018 the year where we really start to make big strides in transforming the industry, and #PressForProgress.

This blog was written by Katy Toms, Senior Engineer.