Does a career in engineering add up? You do the maths...


FERM of the month – Sian Hill, Civil Engineer at AECOM

Like many students who enjoy maths at school – and maybe even you, Sian Hill was considering a career in banking and investment. It seemed like the most logical progression, and was an industry that she was familiar with. However during school, she was fortunate to gain exposure to engineering and the logical problem solving it involved, which then inspired Sian to start to consider a path into engineering.

It wasn’t until Sian was at university that she got to fully understand what a Civil Engineer does. Sian liked the idea that she could be involved in building something physical, that a lot of people would use as well as having the opportunity to make a positive environmental impact on our built environment. She was attracted to the challenge of working in the construction industry and doing something unexpected, at no point did Sian consider that this may not be a career for her because she was female.

At the beginning of 2015, Barclays Corporate released an insight paper which identified that Manufacturing, Transport, Aerospace and Automotive industries would all contribute to the UK’s growth in 2015, all of which as industries rely heavily on engineering. However many young women just as capable as Sian are choosing not to enter the world of engineering, regardless of the enriching careers it promises within growing industries.

Misconceptions that industries such as construction are for men and that women don’t belong in related careers is simply not true. Sian is living proof of why women belong with men in this industry having carved out a successful career as a Civil Engineer with AECOM, demonstrating that the role of an engineer is about passion and not about gender.

One of the achievements Sian is most proud of is when she worked as a contractor onsite at a Sewerage Treatment Plant, working near tanks and pipes full of sewerage in the middle of an industrial estate, although some projects are more glamorous than others, the challenges within the work Sian does and solving them with engineered solutions, makes Civil Engineering a fulfilling vocation for her as well as for many women and men working within this discipline.

Sian calls for more females to enter the industry and takes pride in her involvement with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) events, which she uses to educate young people, and in particular girls, about what she does through presentations and hands-on activities. If there were more female engineer role models amongst her generation then this would help to inspire more girls in the next generation to see past the old-fashioned views of blue overalls and dirty hands, and to see the fulfilling and rewarding careers attainable, where the application of maths and critical thinking can solve real-world problems.

Sian sometime feels she has had to prove her capabilities over her male colleagues at a similar level when onsite. This also shines the light on a perception change for both men and women, females need to believe that engineering is for them, as much as men need to support them as they would support their male peers. Engineering is not about gender, it’s about capability and drive, and there is a desperate need for more industry mentors to step out and encourage young people to see the benefits rather than the barriers.

When discussing the subject of females stepping into engineering careers, Sian said “I think it’s interesting that the number of women studying Engineering is rising but the ratio of women to men working as Engineers has not increased for the last 100 years. For some reason women leave the profession or don’t enter it at all after studying. I think employers need understand why this is by providing a support network and mentors for their women employees”.

With National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) just around the corner, Sian says “I would urge as many women in engineering to get involved with this day as possible! We need all females within engineering to join forces in inspiring the next generation of female engineers, and this day provides the perfect platform to do so. For all the school girls reading this article who love maths and may or may not be considering a career in engineering I would strongly recommend that you talk to your school about getting some work experience or exposure to engineering so that you can discover for yourself, how exciting it really is!”


If you are age 11-21 and would like more information on careers in engineering please click here.

For anyone who would like to get involved in National Women in Engineering Day 2015, please click here.

Date published: 
May 28, 2015