International Women in Engineering Day is upon us again and reminds us to celebrate the fantastic women excelling in their fields.
Over the last decade, engineering and broader STEM careers have been a much more attractive proposition for young women entering their careers than ever before. But we must do more to create balance and encourage more women into the sector.
What better way to do this than to meet the amazing women doing incredible jobs in the sector to hear about their experiences?
Meet: Clionadh Williams, Health and Safety, Environmental & Quality Officer, Celtic Anglian Water
What is your current role, and how did you get there?
“I am the HSEQ Officer for Celtic Anglian Water, responsible for all Health and Safety, Environmental and Quality, having started in operations at the beginning of my career.”

What does a typical workday look like for you?
“Generally, my role will involve site visits, walkarounds and engaging with our team and the customers on-site. I am lucky that some of this includes advice and developing initiatives in health and safety and other areas of the business to set our standards. I will ensure our team and customers are happy and have everything they need to do their roles.
“There is also the more routine stuff – writing reports, doing audits and ensuring compliance.”

Was it always your dream to get into a role in the engineering sector?
“When I was studying at college, I had already decided that I wanted to be in the water industry. It was an evolving industry, and the future looked exciting as Irish Water came on board too.

“Working in operations, I was involved in a lot of meetings and got to hear about various areas of the business, and this sparked my interest, eventually leading me to this role. I have been lucky to work for Celtic Anglian Water (CAW), as they have supported my development and realised the passion within me. I did my work experience at CAW, was asked to come back, and since then, I have been supported with additional training, and they also supported me by putting me through my masters, which is great.”

Did you worry about, or have you experienced, any issues being a woman in your role?
“In Health and Safety, you are always going to come up against challenges as we are changing how things should be done in people’s day-to-day roles. Having worked in the company before moving into this role, I knew teams and people across the business, so it was quite a smooth transition. The company is large and has made real strides to get more female representation across the business. When you attend meetings, it can appear quite male-dominated, I would be one of only two women with a voice for instance. It is improving, but there is a way to go before it is equally balanced. I am confident that the company has processes to achieve this. The problem is not the want for women in our industry; it is the lack of women applying to join us.”

Have you met or worked with other influential women in engineering who inspire you?
“When I started, there was only one other woman in the business. She was obviously going to be someone I would look up to, but it wasn’t a direct conversation I had with her. We now have a few more women in the company, but we need more female representation. I don’t need support, as being a woman has not caused me any issues in my career. I feel as equal as any man in the business.

What can the engineering sector do to inspire and attract young women to the profession?
“We need to encourage girls at an earlier age. I have been doing school tours for years at CAW; the best age is primary school age. They have such a unique way of thinking about things. I like to make this interactive and take them through the journey showing it from waste to clear water. Poo is hilarious for children, so making it fun engages them. Gender doesn’t matter at that age; all the children are interested. Our tours are ongoing and are still popular. We need to do more within schools, though. On career days, we need a variety of careers represented. You will often see nurses, solicitors, and Gards, but businesses like us and other STEM professions must be in the community. We should be sending engineers, representing all genders, from companies like CAW – not only to talk about the sector but about the important and positive effects we have on the environment and that the water industry, especially, is a recession-proof, safe and lifelong career for anyone.”

What is the next step for you?
“I am currently the HSEQ officer for CAW; I would like to progress to the manager and take on additional responsibilities. I believe doors will always be open for me with the company; I have been heavily supported and look forward to the future as the industry evolves.