Don’t let industry stereotypes hold you back

The transport and engineering sector is one of the most dynamic and exciting industries in the UK to work in and young women should feel inspired by that, says Victoria Crozet.

From a young age, I never saw the transportation and engineering industry as a man’s world and my gender has never held me back from fulfilling my goals. A passion for the way that transportation can take mobility to cities and bring people together has driven me to seek a career in the profession. 

Being from the French Alps and now living in London, I know only too well how wonderful advancements in transportation can be and I want to be part of the solution to bring countries closer together and more easily accessible. That’s why I pursued a career in urban planning. A quick glance at recent statistics, however, paints a rather different picture of the industry as a whole. Worryingly, women represent only 9% of the engineering workforce in the UK, according to an IET Skills and Demand in Industry survey.

With women being unrepresented in the workplace, this is not only a problem for diversity but also an issue for the looming skills shortage. The reason we need to tackle this misconception that engineering is not a career of choice for women is clear - diversity is a hugely important factor in the workplace. 

In my experience, our industry is very diverse in terms of nationalities and that is a huge strength. If we could achieve the same level of diversity with gender it could only benefit the profession and the work we deliver. The broader the range of experiences and viewpoints in project teams, the better the outcomes and greater the innovations delivered. 

There are countless reasons why young women should feel inspired by the transport industry and engineering. It’s one of the most dynamic and exciting industries in the UK to work in right now. At a time when many sectors are struggling, Network Rail, Crossrail and HS2 are experiencing huge investment, and the future looks positive with all the main political parties recognising the importance of infrastructure investment for the economy.

I find the job very rewarding – the important work we deliver influences the world around us. My role is also brilliantly varied and sociable. As a transportation consultant, I get to meet and work alongside a wide and interesting range of people from all sorts of backgrounds undertaking different jobs. These range from engineers and construction professionals, to architects and historians, as well as the infrastructure owners and the public. All this brings a lot of career satisfaction. 

At AECOM, I have been offered a range of wonderful career opportunities, including being in the team behind one of the nine European shortlisted entries for the Hyperloop Global Challenge. Our design was unveiled at Hyperloop One’s ‘Vision for Europe’ summit in Amsterdam earlier this month.

The Hyperloop One Global Challenge kicked off in May 2016 as an open call to individuals, universities, companies and governments to develop comprehensive proposals for deploying Hyperloop One’s transport technology in their region. Proposed routes would greatly reduce passenger and cargo transport times across some of the continent’s most heavily trafficked regions. It was an incredibly exciting initiative to be part of.

Given the opportunities I’ve enjoyed, the big question now is how to encourage more young women into the profession so they too can experience a similarly rewarding career path. 

One of the most important steps is to capture the imagination of our industry’s future female engineers from an early age, ideally while they are still at school.

On a practical level, my advice to young women is to choose subjects at school that give them flexibility to study engineering at college or university and to never let stereotypes hold them back. However, young women shouldn’t be put off if college or university isn’t for them. Apprenticeships are an exciting entry route into the profession. The opportunities are there - now is the time to grasp them. 

Victoria Crozet is a graduate consultant at AECOM.