Graduate Member, Tara Clinton, has been working at Arup since September 2014, following her graduation from University College Dublin. To celebrate National Women in Engineering Day she discusses her career and how more young women and girls could be encouraged into engineering careers.
I probably had two major influences in my decision to pursue engineering as a career – school and family. At school my favourite subjects were maths, physics and art, and structural engineering encompasses those subjects. Also, my dad is an architect and my grandad an engineer, so I was thinking about the ‘built environment’ from a young age. Both my school and family always encouraged me in my ambition.
I think role models can take the form of men or women, both inside and out of the office – but we certainly have some great female role models in Arup. Carolina Bartram, for example, recently won “Engineer of the Year” in the Women in Construction Awards. I like the way she thinks and works, coming up with innovative Structural solutions, and she creates a great dialogue with architects through the medium of her design sketches.
I’m lucky that I’ve already seen one project through completion: a shipping container house for the 2015 London Design festival called ‘A new house for London’. Currently I’m working on the Coal Drops building in King’s Cross. It is really exiting seeing a project get realised, and it’s really interesting to experience some of the issues that can arise when a project actually begins construction.
I haven’t felt any difficulties so far in my career as a result of being a woman – I’m quite at home in the construction industry! I think the biggest hurdles to women pursuing engineering careers are misconceptions about the profession and a lack of information: architecture seems to have a more even ratio of women to men, which may be a result of the preconception that structural engineering is less about design, more about working on site –but this assumption is completely false. We spend much of our time on design work in our office, and when we do visit the site it’s really exciting – because we’re seeing our designs become real. I think there is also a lack of awareness around the different roles within engineering (among both boys and girls) and this is something we are working with schools to improve through our STEM programme.
I really enjoy the more creative approaches to introduce young people to engineering careers. I recently took part in a workshop at the V&A Museum, which was a fantastic experience for our Arup team - it was great to see young children getting excited about materials and building houses, and they were great at it too! Arup has a strong STEM team, and we do a lot of work with schools to increase awareness of science and maths based careers, which I think is fantastic. Outside of Arup, the Bloodhound project is another example of an imaginative project which uses the world land speed record attempt to inspire young children into STEM subjects.
Women in Engineering Day is important because it’s a time we can appreciate the work done by both women and men to overcome diversity issues – and no doubt will continue to do so, but we have come a such long way since even ten years ago.
The V&A musuem is currently hosting an exhibition about the life and work of Ove Arup. For more information visit the website here.