What originally made you get into the construction industry?
Whilst at school in Taiwan, I fundraised for a charity called Tabitha and travelled to Cambodia to build 15 houses for a small village outside of Phnom Penh. This piqued my interest in sustainable development, and I thought the best way to create a positive impact in the world was through getting involved in construction – an industry that has a significant impact: on the skyline, on shaping the way people live, on the world’s environmental footprint. It’s an industry that can provide infrastructure to those who most need it.
What does International Women in Engineering Day mean to you?
In the words of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), International Women in Engineering Day is an exciting opportunity to raise the profile of women engineers and encourage more people to consider engineering as a profession. Each year I find myself doing something different – I celebrated INWED18 in Rwanda building a bridge with an amazing engineering team, INWED19 by completing my first ultramarathon with two incredible Balfour Beatty engineers, and #INWED20 mentoring three talented women through their ICE chartership. Engineering brings diversity together to create positive impact in the world around us, so we have every reason to celebrate!
How do you think we can further encourage and retain talented women in Balfour Beatty?
The same way you would encourage and retain any talented employees in Balfour Beatty – empowering everyone to fulfil their potential in whichever areas their strengths may lie, rewarding and recognising achievements, providing opportunities to stretch their abilities, mentoring and coaching talent so it can be developed, and paying women a fair wage to overcome the pay gap.
What would you say is still the biggest barrier for women within the industry, how can we overcome this?
It is difficult to speak for an entire industry as everyone is different, but the biggest barrier to inclusion that I have come across to date – not just for women but for other minority groups – has been a cultural and behavioural barrier.
Most days, being a woman in construction is great. On days when it isn't, it often comes down to comments, preconceptions and disrespect. New talent is entering the industry every day, expecting to be treated fairly, but instead finding themselves battling outdated behaviours.
I don't have the answer, but I think having the earnest conversations to start changing these behaviours, rolling out reverse mentoring on a bigger scale, and treating women fairly could be a good start.
Career wise, what has been your greatest achievement?
The highlight of my career to date was the opportunity to be involved with Bridges to Prosperity. Fundraising and then travelling to Rwanda to build a footbridge to provide a safe year-round crossing is an amazing and humbling experience. Minigo footbridge now provides safe access to education for 800 children, as well as access to the hospitals, markets and main roads for 4300 people. Bridges to Prosperity is a fantastic opportunity I would encourage everyone to apply for and get involved with.
In 2019 I was also lucky enough to win ‘Best Woman Civil Engineer’ and ‘Most Distinguished’ at the European Women in Construction & Engineering (WICE) Awards. More recently I’ve since also been nominated & shortlisted as the ICE finalist to represent the ICE for the Karen Burt Memorial Award, which is awarded by the WES (Womens’ Engineering Society) who appropriately set up and sponsor INWED (International Women in Engineering Day).