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More than equal: embracing the equitable workspace

For this year’s International Women’s Day, the campaign is encouraging everyone to think beyond equality and consider how to create a more equitable world. To help us, we spoke to four of our senior female engineers about their experience at Jubb, and the industry as a whole.

First, let’s make the distinction between equality and equity. Equality says that there should be no difference in services and policies – everyone gets the same. But this ignores the fact that we are not the same, and our social systems are fundamentally ‘imbalanced’. Equity takes into account the diverse lived experiences of individuals, and it compensates for the imbalance in the system.

Learning pathways

Perhaps more by following our values than a conscious choice, at Jubb we’ve developed a working culture that supports the individual to grow according to their strengths. We believe in offering the opportunities and the support you need to reach your potential, through the Learning Pathways.

“The Learning Pathways initiative allows staff to develop their career knowing that Jubb will support them at all stages,” explains Kathryn Mercer, Associate in our Plymouth office. “We are given the opportunity to progress at our pace, according to our priorities.”

And learning isn’t confined to graduates, says Amy Waites, Associate Transport Planner in our Bristol office: Not a week goes by where I don’t learn something new, even after 30+ years.” 

Kathryn Mercer, Associate Engineer in our Plymouth office

No cherry-picking

The same is true when it comes to flagship projects. Everyone at Jubb has the opportunity to work on a range of projects to help them grow into their specialism.

Jubb created a relaxed environment for me to learn and develop during my chartership progress,” recalls Elizabeth Side, Principal Engineer in our Cardiff office “I contributed to projects that stretched and challenged me.”

Katerina Spaull, Senior Structural Engineer in our Winchester office, agrees: “I am fortunate to be able to say I’ve been offered the same opportunities as male colleagues. I do feel valued and respected by our Directors.”

Elizabeth Side, Associate Engineer in our Cardiff office

Daily Challenges

However, at less than 10% of the workforce, the UK has the fewest female engineering professionals in Europe. As an industry and as a company we need to be doing more to change that. Not least because simply working in a space where men outnumber women brings its own daily reminders – and pressures – for our female team members.

There have been occasions where site teams have made an assumption about me,” says Katerina. “Someone asked me recently “Has the engineer arrived yet?” It’s challenging for me, both as a woman and as a person of colour. It can lead to a lack of self-confidence and a feeling that I need to work harder to prove my professional worth.​”

As a company, we know there is always more to do, more to learn. One successful part of our recent strategy has been in attracting and nurturing the next generation of female graduates. But for the industry to have a next generation, we need to work harder to reach girls – to show them a career in engineering is for them.

Katerina Spaull, Senior Structural Engineer in our Winchester office

You can’t be what you can’t see

Equity means not just creating a channel for graduates, but actively targeting girls at primary level, where even basic awareness of STEM careers is lacking. “The only reason I knew about civil engineering was because my mum was a draughtsperson,” reveals Amy. 

“It’s so important to create a path for others to achieve,” agrees Elizabeth. “I got the benefit of female engineers’ experience, and I want to do the same for the next generation.” Solving this problem shouldn’t fall to female members of our teams. Equity is about system-wide change, as well as educating ourselves as individuals. As Katerina says:

“This is about more than levelling the playing field. Everyone should be involved in the solution to make engineering appealing to women. Not just bringing women in from graduate level, but keeping them here, nurturing them at every stage.”

And learn more about international Women’s Day at