Why women in engineering aren't a rarity any more | Keller United Kingdom

Why women in engineering aren't a rarity any more

More and more women are making their careers in the construction industry, many of them with Keller. We spoke to one of our engineers who has been in the ground engineering business for more than 25 years.

Keller senior engineer Olwen Goss has seen a lot of changes since she started her first job in geotechnical engineering in 1991.

Perhaps the biggest has been the increase in women joining her in an increasingly less male-dominated environment.

“Women in engineering are not unusual any more. When I started there weren’t a lot around but now that’s changed,” said Olwen. “The culture has moved on and it’s a career where women can thrive.”

Olwen’s interest in engineering began with an early fascination with two of the school subjects vital for a geotechnical engineer.

“I’d always liked maths and geology. I remember seeing a 3-D picture of a volcano when I was at primary school and I thought that was amazing.”

“In my final year at university I did a geotechnical module and enjoyed it so I decided to move into ground engineering.”

Olwen graduated from Liverpool University with a BSc in Physical Geography and Geology and then started a career that, after stints at several other companies, saw her join Keller in 2015.

She works in the ground improvement department dealing with vibro replacement – using densely compacted stone columns to strengthen weak soils so they can be built on.

“I deal with incoming enquiries at all stages. It might be a housing developer who is considering buying a piece of land and wants to know if vibro is suitable to treat the ground before building on it. I’ll look at site investigation reports and comment on a suitable technique, “ said Olwen.

“Or it might be an industrial unit where the engineer has already proposed a vibro solution. I’ll come up with a vibro design and some costings and submit a tender. This might involve going out on site and looking at the shallow soil conditions via pits dug into the ground.

“If the tender is successful I’ll provide design support to our operations team during the site works and answer any queries from the client.”

The varied nature of the job is one of the attractions for Olwen.

“I particularly like the design aspects and communicating with people and convincing them to use Keller,” she said. “My job role suits somebody who can do a bit of everything, technical and otherwise and that suits me.

“I’m part of a small team and we all pull together to get the job done. And I also get a great deal of achievement when I travel around to new jobs and pass a building that was built on my vibro design.”

And there are advantage to being a woman when you’re out on site.

“It often works in your favour. Site guys might do something for you they wouldn’t do for a man, like holding the tape when you’re trying to measure a pit dug into the ground whilst scribbling notes.

“You have to show that you know what you’re talking about but once you do, you get respect.”

But perhaps the most pleasing thing for Olwen is never being treated differently because of her gender.

“I must admit I never thought it was unusual to be a woman in the industry when I joined," she said.

“I just went for it and I’d advise other young women thinking of a career in ground engineering to do the same.”


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