15/12/2009 - Council boosts female engineering numbers
While the number of women majoring in science and engineering is continuing to increase, the Southern Downs Regional Council engineering workforce has boosted numbers recently with the appointment of three female engineering students.
The three young ladies, all ‘local’ girls, will spend their university holidays learning the ‘ins and outs’ of civil engineering in a local government environment. Ashleigh Bailey, Kaitlin Matthews and Rebecca Harris are happy that Council, as a major engineering employer, is taking steps to improve the number of females in the engineering field.
Director of Engineering Services, Peter See believes engineering is a sought-after profession offering a sustainable and fulfilling career for both men and women.
“While the cultures of many engineering workplaces are not female and family friendly, Council defies this stereotype with a number of female engineers having been employed both now and in the past,” Mr See said.
Fourth-year USQ Engineering Student, Ashleigh Bailey said that while water and sewerage might not have been her first choice for work experience, she is finding it really interesting.
“I just want to learn everything I can before I get grounded in one area or in one location,” she said.
“In the past two weeks, I haven’t had to deal with anything too sticky, despite my trips to the sewerage treatment plant,” she joked.
Ms Bailey has combined these trips with visits to the region’s water treatment plants and most recently has been helping on a surveying project prior to the design of a new spillway for Connolly Dam.
Kaitlin Matthews, who has just finished her first year of a Bachelor of Engineering with the University of Queensland, has not chosen her major but is looking at a possible future in civil or mechanical and aerospace engineering.
“I like that with civil construction you get to be out in the field and a recent experience with the Centenary Highway project in Brisbane was very exciting,” Ms Matthews said.
“But I’m also really interested in the Defence Force’s engineering program, where civil engineering can take you to places like East Timor to rebuild towns.”
Ms Matthews has been assigned to Council’s Works Department where this week she has been involved in a roadworks project on the Industrial Estate. But the image of her in a Defence Force camp is a far cry from the career path she and her family pictured.
Ms Matthews was a late bloomer in her quest for an engineering career, trading in her ballet tutu and points, for jeans and steel-capped boots.
“Ever since I was little I was going to be an actress, making my mum and dad send me to dancing and acting camps every holiday,” she said.
“But then in senior I had a teacher who told me it was ridiculous to go into musical theatre because I was good at physics and maths.
“I’m so glad, and my parents are pretty relieved,” she joked.
“And while I do miss dancing, I hope to be able to do some adult classes down the track, but for now I am content juggling uni and work. I have no regrets in leaving that behind.”
While initially wanting to become an architect, Ms Bailey’s ambition for an engineering career was family-centred.
“My brother is an environmental engineer, so I guess from him I’ve developed an interest in helping communities maintain sustainable living through best practice engineering,” she said.
The girls agreed that the reception from the males in their engineering workplace has been good and when questioned, stated that they think they are prepared for a time when it is not so good.
“Stick to what you know and don’t let it bother you,” is Ms Matthews’s strategy.
“There is always going to be prejudice of some description in the workplace.”
Their handbags may have turned into kit bags that include 10 gallons of water and a bottle of sunscreen, along with hard hats and steel-capped boots, but these young ladies are still full of smiles.
On the agenda for today… Ms Bailey will be heading out to Killarney to check out the water situation, while Ms Matthews will be typing up road inspections.
All in a day’s work for a local government engineer, whether male or female.
Rebecca Harris, a first-year Engineering student at the University of Queensland, was unavailable for interview due to ill health. Ms Harris is currently working within Council’s Design & Assets Department.
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