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International Women in Engineering Day 2020

Nicola Evans and Gemma Ridgway, both started their careers in a similar way, through an apprenticeship within the gas distribution sector. Here, they exchange experiences and pass the baton to each other to help raise the profile of women in engineering.

Nicola is our Director of Asset Management and joined the industry as a Gas Service Engineer apprentice in 1989. She has since gained a degree in Electronics and Instrumentation Systems and is a chartered Engineer.

Gemma started her career with National Grid as a Pressure Control and Storage apprentice in 2016 and now works as a Technician within our Asset Management team.

Nicola asked Gemma:

What do you enjoy about the role?

Every day the role is different, there are a lot of opportunities in the engineering industry to learn something new and people who will help you to give you back up and support within Penspen.

What would you change?

It is still classified as a male dominated industry. I lacked in support during my apprenticeship – I had to motivate myself to gain competency and work to the best of my ability.

How have you passed the baton on?

I completed STEM accreditation and went on to become a STEM ambassador, which involved visiting colleges and universities to encourage women into engineering and to promote the apprenticeship route into engineering.

If you were in my role what changes would you make?

I would make women aware that engineering is a good career to pursue by getting involved in STEM/local schools etc.

Gemma asked Nicola:

What challenges do you face being a director?

My challenges don’t necessarily relate to my gender. It’s probably more that I would like to spend time closer to the engineering element of our business but in my role I need to spend time using broader skills, such as commercial awareness, customer engagement and ensuring we meet all of our obligations and ambitions.

What is your favourite thing about your role?

I’m able to set the direction and I get a huge sense of achievement from not only hitting our performance targets but also developing our team members along the way.

How have you passed the baton on?

Like you, in my early career I spent quite a bit of time with young people in schools, colleges and universities, encouraging them into engineering. More recently, I have become a coach for junior engineers, guiding them through some of the challenges that being a woman in engineering can bring. (I have also coached lots of male engineers too).

What would you like to see in the future?

I would like engineering to be a lot more diverse – it would be great if no one batted an eyelid at seeing female engineers in the workplace. I would also like to see plenty of support and flexibility for all young engineers, who may be juggling families and work commitments.

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