This International Women in Engineering Day, we are celebrating our women and the pivotal role they play in keeping Inertia’s wheels turning. We caught up with Emma Clements, Carolina Bernal, Jodie Egan and Hannah Qiao to find out more from our fantastic four female engineers & designers about their experiences throughout the industry, what inspires them and their tips for engineers entering our industry today.
What female leaders, engineers or not, inspire you?
Hannah: Emma is a big inspiration to me. I have been able to learn a lot about engineering from her, but also her ability raise three kids while also being an excellent leader in inspiring to me. She is proof that you can find a good balance between family life and a successful career.
Emma: I always admire powerful women running their own business. Jill May, director of iQ Construct is one of these amazing women, who has lead a successful company along with her husband while also being a mother. Watching her grow her business has been inspiring.
Jill also started a group called ‘Prominent Women in Property’, which has become another important support network for me. It brings together women in very similar working calibres and provides an opportunity to share experiences and deal with any challenges we are facing.
Outside of the industry, my good friend Francesca Webster, Founder and Director of ASI & Brazilian Beauty is a constant source of inspiration. She has a vibrant energy and determined nature that has helped her to grow her own business.
What I love most about these women is that whenever we connect, they always support and motivate me and I cherish this support network
Carolina: I think Michelle Obama is incredible because of the way she has inspired so many women around the world. She has worked extremely hard in her career and at the same time been a great mum to her children.
How do you think Australian universities and businesses can encourage more diversity in engineering?
Hannah: I think universities do a lot for encouraging women in engineering as well as other STEM industries. There are many societies and scholarships available for females which is fantastic.
Emma: There is a significant trend to move towards online learning courses, which has only been encouraged by the COVID-19 restrictions. While this has benefits for many, I think there needs to be more emphasis on collaboration and team work in order for young professionals to be more comfortable contributing their knowledge and ideas once they enter the workplace. Helping students, in particular those that are outnumbered in our industry, find the tools to collaborate comfortably and effectively would help uncover the diversity of ideas and strengths that sometimes may not come to light.
What challenges have you had to face in your career?
Jodie: When I first entered the industry 15-20 years ago, the construction industry didn’t have as many female designers as we do now. I was occasionally thought of as an admin staff member or not taken as seriously as some of my male colleagues. However, attitudes have changed over the years and I am glad to say I don’t have these experiences anymore.
Emma: In my experience, being a female working in a male dominated industry has not restricted my opportunities and ability to be successful, however at times the inherent differences between how men and women think and operate are evident and can make for some interesting discussions.
Aside from that, being able to find a comfortable work-life balance has been a significant struggle. After having several career breaks I felt like I had to ‘catch up’ in a sense, and felt like I had to squeeze both full time work and being a full time parent. I believed I should be saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity in both my roles, but when I learned when to sometimes say no and when to take a step back, I began to find a good balance.
What is it like being a working mum in the industry?
Carolina: To be honest it is very hard to find a balance between being a good mum and being successful in my career. The fantastic thing about working with Inertia has been their support that has allowed me to do both jobs and to find this balance.
Emma: It has taken some time to establish a good balance between achieving a quality service for our clients, active mentoring of my team and being a good mum to my three gorgeous boys. I’ve found the key is not in multi-tasking, but instead, is in being present, and allocating 100% of my focus on the task ahead, whether that is in the work place, school ground or at home.
Lastly, what advice would you give to any young female engineers out there who are just starting their career?
Carolina: Don’t be intimidated by a room full of men! If you are doing what you really love, you will also enjoy every single obstacle along the way.
Hannah: Don’t limit yourself or feel intimidated because you are a female in a male dominated industry. As we all know, we have the same capabilities, so as long as it is what you enjoy, go for it!
Jodie: If you love working out how things go together and solving problems then Engineering could be for you. When I started out I wasn’t aware of all the different ways it was possible to have a career in Engineering.
There really is so many options – civil, structural, mechanical and environmental etc. Then there are many different ways to get into Engineering from going to university or to taking on a traineeship to be a draftsperson, or even through project management to look after the construction / maintenance of infrastructure.
Emma: Don’t be afraid to give everything a go! No task is too menial nor too complex. You just have to maintain a positive attitude and take every opportunity to deepen your understanding of the industry.