Katie Abraham: "I am inspired by fellow women in the industry"

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TXM Recruit News, Women in Transport

Why did you want to become an engineer?

How many people actually understand what engineering is? Unfortunately, it is a career that is commonly misunderstood. I count myself lucky that the girls’ school I went to worked hard to make sure they showed students different career options. If not, I might not have ended up where I am today unaware that engineering is a very worthy profession.

Before completing my GCSEs, I was unsure about what subjects I wanted to take forward to further education. My maths teacher encouraged me to take part in an ‘Engineering Education Scheme’. I was paired with an electrical engineering company and this opened my eyes to the world of engineering!

Civil Engineers are problem solvers who create, improve and protect the environment we live in. The projects we work on include bridges, tunnels, roads, railways and other large structures. I have a job that allows me to be part of a team, creating infrastructures, transport systems and contributing to new horizons for our future.

How did you get involved in with TFL?

I was sponsored by the Institution of Civil Engineers during my time at the University of Nottingham. As part of this sponsorship, I had to complete three summer placements. Although I never directly worked for Transport for London, I was a site engineer on two construction sites where they were the client: Hammersmith Flyover Strengthening Works and Bond Street Station Upgrade. The summer placements provided fantastic learning experiences and inspired me to find out more about working for a large organisation that positively shapes the journeys of millions every day.  

Why should more females get involved in engineering?

I think firstly it’s important to say why engineering is such an exciting career. Every day is different. In the last eighteen months at TFL, I have been part of the team that has upgraded the power on the Tube network; I have designed new road junctions and even been part of a team working on the £1bn new proposed road tunnel in East London, Silvertown. I am constantly drawing on knowledge and experience from my university degree to help make the journeys of 8 million Londoners easier (I hope!).

It is no secret that the UK construction industry is always being challenged to significantly improve its performance. It is an industry that trusts its tried and tested methods and can sometimes be nervous to embrace new technologies – although by doing so it will meet new demands. Creating a more diverse workforce by encouraging more females into engineering can only be positive in fostering innovation, inspiring change and representing the cities in which we live.

You might be surprised to hear that only 23 per cent of the TFL workforce is female, but I can only speak positively of my experiences in the industry to date. TFL has far reaching network groups, such as the Women Staff Network Group and Females in Transport in Engineering, which encourage employees to take part in STEM events, inspiring the next generation to join the industry.

I love being a civil engineer, shaping our future and contributing to the quality of people’s lives. I would encourage anyone to join this industry and make a difference.

What is the future of Women in Engineering? 

Too often the focus is on the downfalls of the opposite gender, whereas I prefer to be inspired by fellow women in the industry and focus on how we can work together to ensure the best future for all. That said, I must admit I am not the biggest fan of receiving an email that’s addressed to ‘Gents’ or ‘Chaps’, but the culture is beginning to change. What has been great for me across the industry is the amount of positive change that has been promoted. Take International Women’s Day for example - this milestone is a vital catalyst to the future of Women in Engineering. I have a female civil engineering mentor, who has been absolutely fantastic in inspiring me to stand up for myself, to do more and get involved with this movement.

I recently volunteered at a STEM event organised by Gary Lincoln from TXM. With more people like Gary genuinely invested in encouraging women to get involved, the future for women in engineering is promising. In fact one day, I hope that we won’t have to be having this conversation… nor will I have to answer any emails starting with ‘Gents’!