Why I do what I do

By Jo Baldry

23 June 2015

Today marks National Women in Engineering Day, which aims to highlight the importance of women in the industry. And today, I speak as a building services engineer. I've always had a fascination with buildings. As a child I used to draw plans and imagine what buildings I admired might look like inside. This even followed by drawing out extensions for my dolls house. A beautiful dollhouse I may add.

I have had an interest in interiors, comfort, space and identity of spaces for as long as I can remember. From the grand booking hall at Waverly station in Edinburgh which I loved as a child and now always makes me think of home, to making my bedroom from childhood to adolescence feel like my space. Some might say this is the 'nesting' urge typically associated with women. But I didn’t want to just ‘nest’ in this space; I wanted more than that. I wanted to create and understand that space.I gravitated towards science and maths at school. I loved them. I loved the beauty and satisfaction of solving an equation. I could never stop asking 'why' to my poor science teachers, not to annoy them but because I always needed to know. An inherent voice kept questioning, discussing, and quizzing every detail.

That is why I love engineering and working at Max Fordham. There are so many questions to be asked, problems to be solved, and beautiful spaces to be created. I do think it is vital that more youngsters, especially girls are encouraged to take an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at school and beyond. It is not just one step to take but an entire staircase ahead of us. Very few children decide to be engineers when they are six. Very few children decide to become anything much when they are six. We just need to show them what options STEM can present until they are old enough to choose science, technology, engineering or maths if they wish. And if they don’t choose to continue with STEM they will at least have a greater interest and understanding of the world around them which they can pass on to others.

I was one of two girls in a physics class of 20 at school, one of around the 10% minority of women on my physics degree course at university and now work in an industry where I’m in the 9% minority of women. But I have never ever thought it’s not for me, speaking as a woman. I’ve loved these choices. And they are absolutely suited to me as a person.

In this industry, I’ve generally been fortunate. I can discuss engineering solutions with multi-disciplinary teams of men and women. We work creatively together, commercially as well as socially to create a balance. But other women are not as lucky. In my profession it is still very much a man’s world with little opportunity for more senior roles. This can and will only change with more female voices in engineering.  I don’t just think we will succeed when we have a proportional split of men and women in the industry at all levels, or any other minority group. I think we’ll have truly succeeded when we have equal representation and we’ve stopped needing to comment on the gender issue because we are too busy discussing the fantastic things people in the industry are doing.


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