Roseanna told Infrastructure Intelligence that she’d not experienced any gender-related work issues, but she knows that female colleagues with children face more challenges.
“Our geosciences team is still unusual because it’s over a third female, and our geosciences director is a woman. RSK offers flexible and part time working to both men and women, which helps women engineers drive their careers forward once they have children,” she comments. “But there’s only so much a company can do to support women when the nature of site work is still not conducive to working motherhood. The received wisdom is that site investigation work is by its nature inflexible; you have to load up the van the night before, you have to be on site by 8am to give instructions to the operatives working the machinery and carry out health and safety checks, you have to monitor the day’s work to ensure it’s conducted to the proper standard, and you have to clear up the site and makes sure it’s properly locked up after the contractors have left”. These timings are difficult for working mothers, as most childcare facilities are not open early enough.
She explains that RSK addresses the problem in various ways, one of which is to use graduates to support senior women engineers. They can be there to do the jobs that clash with childcare arrangements, such as being in early to set up and staying late to lock up. But she recognises that more could be done to challenge the industry’s ingrained beliefs about site work.:
“People say there’s no flexibility in relation to an early start, because a team of people is there waiting. But why does work have to start at 8am? This is not a necessity but a working practice enshrined in the industry since the time when it was exclusively male.
“It would just as feasible to start work at 10am, after the morning rush hour, and to go home late. This would suit working mothers much better, as evening childcare is much easier to arrange than early morning childcare”.
You can read the article in full online on the Infrastructure Intelligence website. Other RSK employees’ views on women in engineering on International Women in Engineering Day can be found on the RSK Group YouTube channel.