International Women’s Day: Katharine Barker Speaks on #EachForEqual

International Women’s Day is an annual day to ‘celebrate women’s achievements and call for greater equality’. As part of this celebration, CampbellReith wants to celebrate the women who make up our company. We asked the female team members to put together their inspirational stories which we hope inspire others.

While women tend to perform better than men in STEM subjects, according to Engineering UK just 12% of people working in engineering are female. At CampbellReith, we want to share the stories of our female employees to see what made them decide to take up engineering as a full-time career and what keeps them inspired on a day to day basis.

Who inspired you to take up your career and why?

“I wasn’t inspired, as such, to start a career in engineering, but I was lucky to have parents who supported my desire to be a geologist, and tutors who were enthusiastic and encouraging at every step of my education.”

When and how did you decide on your current career, were there any other options that you considered before your current position?

“From a very young age, I decided that I wanted to be either a marine biologist (because I liked dolphins) or a geologist (because I liked sparkly rocks). As I got older, I developed a taste for maths and physics, and so I was encouraged by my tutors to follow that path into a degree in geology.  After university I took the first job I was offered as a geotechnical engineer; it wasn’t a planned decision based on a deep passion for mud, it was a planned decision based on a deep passion to move out of my parents’ house. But I was learning things. New things. And each new thing I learned led on to a swathe of other new skills that I could get stuck in to. Over time I learned what aspects I enjoyed, which subjects I didn’t like and areas where there is serious room for improvement. I am now a Senior Geotechnical Engineer, and I’m happy to be here. I also still like dolphins.” 

“Becky from my after-work netball league inspired me with her decision, at the age of 38, to leave her job as an administrator and become a firefighter.” 

Who inspires you most days and why?

“Becky from my after-work netball league inspired me with her decision, at the age of 38, to leave her job as an administrator and become a firefighter. She did it because she wanted her work to mean something and make a difference. I find that level of self-motivation and dedication inspiring.”

 What advice would you give to someone just starting off on their career path to engineering?

“There are so many different types of engineering that you never even knew existed. Start with what you enjoy now and don’t be discouraged if the discipline you’re interested in starts to lose its appeal. The skills you learn at the start of your career form a broad base that will lead to a multitude of occupations. Learn as much as you can, focus on the things you enjoy.”

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachForEqual, collectively, how can we fight bias and broaden perceptions of women within engineering?

“Continuing to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in engineering but not to the exclusion (or the perceived exclusion) of men entering the industry. Diverse and inclusive collaborations are needed so that, in addition to breaking down the biases that may exist in current and older generations of engineers, it becomes the natural and accepted standard of practise for new engineers entering the industry.”

As an engineering practice that works with a broad range of clients and sectors, our diversity has always resulted in new ideas, unique experiences and better ways of solving problems.  Long may this continue.

Keep an eye out for more International Women’s Day interviews on our website, and make sure you are following us on Twitter, and LinkedIn to stay up to date.