20 JUN 2023


Inspiring female engineers from building services engineering experts Harley Haddow are aiming to flatten misconceptions associated with our industry, ahead of International Women in Engineering Day, which takes place on Friday.

The multi-disciplinary engineering firm says people automatically assume engineers are based on a building site or within construction and is looking to challenge these misconceptions. 

The firm is also conscious young girls often unaware of the available career routes and is calling for the industry to "step up and put this to rest", as women account for just 16.5% of the UK’s engineering industry.

Harley Haddow's female engineers are highlighting why there needs to be better advertisement of career paths and ways existing and future talent can be attracted and retained. 

Inna McNair, principal construction engineer joined the multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy in 2022 and has always been interested in construction, architecture and building as a child. 

 However, she said that within the engineering industry, there is a "misconception you have to be tough and manly to be able to be an engineer". 

"I think this is highlighted when going on to building sites or working with construction workers, which I feel is completely untrue," she says. 

"Often a slight change in dynamic that women bring is appreciated by the entire team, including contractors. 

“In my experience, I’ve definitely been confused for a secretary or an assistant and did lack confidence when I was a younger engineer. 

"However, over the years I have built up that confidence to speak up and hope future engineers won’t experience that." 

On a positive note, she adds whilst there isn’t yet equal representation of women in engineering, over the years there have been more female role models to look up to.

"It's been a pleasure seeing more young female engineers join the sector," says McNair. 

"I have seen many more female engineers join the industry, but it would be great to see more female engineers in upper management roles in years to come.”  

The firm believes improving understanding when it comes to what engineers do and how they contribute to the wider picture is also key to attracting a more diverse workforce, after Engineering UK stated 76% of 11–19-year-olds don’t know much about what people in engineering actually do.  

 Heather Docherty, assistant electrical engineer also joined Harley Haddow last year. 

Thanks to a love for science, maths, puzzles and problem solving, she was inspired to enter the industry after hearing her grandfather's stories on working as a welder on the shipyards.  

 “People think it’s just about being on site when actually there are many different types of engineers people haven’t considered or know about,” said Docherty. 

 Tika Sudarmaji, senior building performance and sustainability engineer, also joined Harley Haddow in late 2022. 

Initially pursuing a career in architecture, Tika realised she was more analytically minded as well as creative and stepped into engineering inspired by her family's connection to the industry.  

 “I was lucky that engineering runs in my family," she said. 

"My uncles and grandfather were all in construction and they worked as structural engineers and architects. 

"I come from Indonesia and studied there until I was sixteen. 

"Unfortunately, there wasn’t much advertisement about engineering. 

"We had a 20-persons class setting, which was then divided into business or science - I was the only girl in secondary who went down the science route." 

Tika adds that teachers were "even surprised" when she told them she had applied to study architecture. 

 Meanwhile, closing the skills gap is known to be an ongoing problem for the industry.

Lauren Johnston, senior mechanical engineer, joined Harley Haddow last year and has been enjoying working on a variety of different projects across different industries. 

Having not known about the engineering industry until her friend enlightened her, she was supported by her high school, but feels more information should be available earlier. 

She said: “I originally wanted to study maths but was put off by string theory. 

"After having found out engineering focuses on applying maths to real life problems, which was much more suited to my interests, I decided to pursue a career in it. 

"My school supported me in following this career path, but I feel it should have been advertised earlier." 

Harley Haddow is calling on the engineering industry and those who work within it to provide schools with first-hand information on the industry from engineering professionals, where this is possible. 

This could include women within engineering roles, painting a picture of what a future in the profession could look like and asking the real-life questions young people may have.  

 As Johnston puts it: “You can’t be what you can’t see." 

"There needs to be more visibility of the women that are currently in engineering roles, and we need more women in senior positions," she adds. 

"There is a lack of women in positions of influence and power within engineering firms which is resulting in an industry that is slow to change. 

"When younger people enter the industry, it is important they are surrounded by people they can look up to.” 

Daniel Ross, Associate Director at Harley Haddow, said: “It’s crucial for us as an industry to inspire the next generation of both women and men into engineering. 

"At Harley Haddow we are passionate about building the next generation of young engineers and owe it to them to drive awareness of the opportunities available at school age, so they do not miss out on their future potential.”  

 Opportunities within Harley Haddow.  


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