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INWED 2024: Our journey into engineering

International Women in Engineering Day By Lucy May, Head of Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Culture – 19 June 2024

Top left to right: Kanan Thakrar, Mechanical Engineer, Shraddha Jadhav, Senior Sustainability Consultant.

Bottom left to right: Liz Marlow, Principal Consultant and Zoe Carr, Ground Engineering Apprentice

Collage of four female Cundall employees


Lucy May in a black top standing in the london office with planting and desks behind her

Lucy May

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Head and sholders shot of Elisabeth in the London office

Dr Elisabeth C Marlow

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International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) takes place on 23 June each year. It is a chance to celebrate the amazing work being done by female engineers around the world.

This year we have spoken to Kanan Thakrar, Mechanical Engineer, Melbourne, Shraddha Jadhav, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Bengaluru, Liz Marlow, Principal Consultant, London and Zoe Carr, Ground Engineering Apprentice, Newcastle. They touch on their journey into engineering, the lessons they have learnt and the advice they would give to women considering a career in engineering.

What initially drew you to pursue a career in engineering?

Kanan: When I first chose engineering, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, all I knew is that my strengths lay in physics and maths and that I liked solving problems. I joined Cundall on the graduate scheme in September 2021. Last year I was given the opportunity to be seconded to the Australian offices for a year and have spent the last couple of months in Melbourne learning more about building performance.

Shraddha: Engineering gives you the opportunity to create, innovate and provide solutions to real world problems. I always enjoy practical working over theory and engineering serves this purpose. I joined Cundall just three months back and it has been a great journey so far. I have been handling projects and clients on a global scale, which has enhanced me as a person professionally and personally.

Liz: Curiosity explored through Lego, electrical plugs (the old school ones with brown and green wires) and helping my dad with DIY, all of these helped me to learn how to put things together and take them apart. Eventually, these interests became nurtured through art classes, design technology, and making things at home, before finally accepting I might have the ability to be an architect, but that was before I found out about suspension bridges! Then the pathway to engineering started to exist! I joined Cundall just over 2 years ago (after a career gap of being a parent and doing research), and I am still navigating a way through.

Zoe: I originally applied for the admin role that was available at the time. When I disclosed that I did geology at college and geography at university I was told about the Geotech role and after some discussion I applied for it! I loved geology at college, prior to this I was obsessed with rocks and fossils as a child (I still am!) Now at Cundall, I am doing a Level 3 Civil Engineering apprenticeship where I am at college one day a week and hope to continue from there as a Ground Engineer!

Have you faced any challenges in engineering?

Kanan: I have always struggled with my confidence throughout my professional career. When I first joined the industry, I found it harder to make myself heard and to stand by my ideas and conclusions. When I started, I always ended sentences with "but I may be wrong". With the engineering industry being male dominated, this exacerbated resulting in a fear of saying something that may have dismissed me as a valued member based on my sex. Naturally through experience, the doubt in my voice has lessened and I have become more assertive. A large part of this improvement has been due to the environment fostered by my Cundall colleagues.

Shraddha: There is a preconceived notion that engineering is a male only industry, and I feel that working with the same determination and passion as your male counterparts is equally challenging. Women need to make it very clear that they are ready to take up everything and break that preconceived notion. For myself, maintaining a work life balance has been one of the challenges. But at Cundall, the hybrid working policy has really helped me in balancing my work and personal life.

Liz: Cundall has shown initiative through the core values on tackling some of the construction sectors hereditary issues, so this can be understood by all. We had an imposter syndrome talk which was hard to listen to because it resonates throughout my career, but here is Cundall giving it airtime. I do have some history with being in the minority of the male: female ratio but whilst I was at university, a good friend’s father who worked in construction, he said ‘you girls will be the future, because the industry needs you’… that was 25 years ago.

Zoe: I remember when I first left university and applied for an engineering role at another firm. When they called me to discuss it, they tried to talk me out of it and by saying it’s an ‘outdoorsy role’ with lots of ‘hard and physical labour’. I think more knowledge could be shared on how broad of an industry engineering is. I remember as a child I had a rather closed-minded idea of what an engineer was and always thought it was steelworks, fixing cars and all very hands-on work, but I could not have been more wrong.

What advice would you give to young women who are considering a career in engineering?

Kanan: Engineering is a rewarding and interesting career. There is a group of incredible female engineers excited to welcome you to the industry and guide you. I would also say not to be intimidated by a louder more self-assured voice; your contribution is valuable. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want as it was through asking that I got the chance to push myself outside of my comfort zone and move to Australia for a year!

Shraddha: The engineering industry is very demanding, so be ready to take up everything positively and passionately. Things will work out in the right direction. All you must be is persistent and determined. This industry will also give you back work satisfaction, exposure and help you grow as a person.

Liz: Simply, explore things and how they work, a lot of things are digital or virtual these days, but at the end of the day you must feel what thermal comfort means, hear noises, make a model and watch it fail and go on site to see how things are built. If you are interested in these things, then why wouldn’t you want to play with buildings and infrastructure? (with the right PPE and risk assessments in place – of course!).

Zoe: I would say to go for it! Truth be told I never considered becoming an engineer, I didn’t think I was smart enough and thought I had no chance, but now here I am working as an Apprentice Engineer, and I love it!

Visit our careers page to learn more about careers at Cundall.