International Women in Engineering Day – Ann Presley, Senior Civil Engineer

Senior Civil Engineer Ann Presley works in our Stoke-on-Trent office. For International Women in Engineering Day 2017, she tells us how the influence and acceptance from a school teacher encouraged her to choose a career in engineering.

Growing up in the USA (the Deep South) I always had the sense that men had their own professional roles and women had very different professional roles. My mother was a nurse and my father was a machinist for an oil rig. My parents reiterated these distinct roles when I was in school, encouraging me to pursue dance, cheerleading, and home economics classes. Whereas, I was more interested in physics, chemistry, and engineering.

I have always been interested in how things work.

I’ve wanted to be an engineer from the age of 8, when I went on a school trip to the Houston Ship Channel and was amazed by the bridge spanning the Channel and the vehicular tunnel under the Channel. I wanted to know how to build these things – these things that looked impossible, but helped modern life to function. And, like many before me, I was inspired by a brilliant teacher – in my case a physics teacher when I was 12.

She would have us make bridges and trusses with everyday items like spaghetti or Popsicle sticks, we even made a mini hovercraft out of bin bags and a computer fan. Then, she would explain the physics behind how they worked.

I went on to study Civil Engineering, Maths, and Environmental Science at the University of Arkansas and the University of Phoenix.

I have enjoyed a brilliant career in engineering, at many companies worldwide and now at Wardell Armstrong, working with some of the brightest people in the country on projects ranging from waste recycling centres, to housing estates, to link roads, to dam restorations.

The percentage of women who are practicing engineers in the US and in the UK is around 15% (US at 14% and UK at 10%) and only 15.8% of students studying engineering in the UK are women (20% in the US).

We should encourage girls – telling them that they can and will be great engineers, and promoting why a career in engineering is worthwhile as well as lucrative.

With any luck, we can increase the number of women in engineering working to make this world a better place.

Women in STEM – facts and statistics (Reporting period 2012-2015), IET

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