‘We need more women engineers to fuel Plymouth’s economic growth’

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Authored by News Desk
Posted: Sunday, June 21, 2020 - 20:45

A leading Plymouth civil engineer says encouraging more women into the profession is vital for re-booting the city’s economic growth after the COVID19 pandemic.

Katy Toms, South West Chair of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and a senior engineer, based at WSP in Exeter, is highlighting the importance of greater diversity of talent ahead of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) on 23 June 2020.

She said:“Post-COVID19 we will continue to deal with the challenges of climate change, sustainable transport and building a greener economy for the South West. The UK government sees infrastructure investment as key to re-booting economic growth, both nationally and in the regions. Importantly, engineering is critical to the economic wellbeing of the UK, contributing £3.7 trillion or 26% of GDP annually. Servicing the demand for technically qualified civil engineers across the infrastructure sector remains a significant challenge. Without fully utilising the technical acumen of the entire population we’ll continue to lag behind many of our European competitors. Against this backdrop, encouraging more women and people from diverse backgrounds into civil engineering isn’t just desirable, it’s a necessity.”

The Women’s Engineering Society reports that 11% of engineers are female with just under 5% of those female engineers professionally registered. Data from ICE shows that 14.8% of its total membership are women, with 21% in the under 40 age group. The percentage of women engineers on an ICE training agreements stands at 23.4% which reflects an increasing proportion of female registrants and is in line with the 21% percentage currently entering UK universities.

Katy Toms commented: “The trend for women entering engineering is moving upwards and this is very encouraging, but we all recognise that much more needs to be done. At the ICE, we’ll be focusing on our schools' programme for 16 to 18-year-olds, which allows direct access to female students who have chosen to study STEM subjects and who could move into apprenticeships or degree-level civil engineering programmes. We need to show them that civil engineering is an exciting and rewarding career that delivers a tangible difference for local communities, enhancing our cities, towns and villages, through better and greener, roads, water, energy and much, much more.”

As a senior engineer with a leading consultancy, Katy Toms has worked on high profile infrastructure schemes across the city, including the helipad at Derriford Hospital and the improvements to Charles Cross roundabout in Plymouth. She’s currently working on the city’s Forder Valley link road project. 

She said: “The work I’m currently doing at Forder Valley is part of a major new infrastructure plan to unlock development in the north of Plymouth, and to achieve this we need skilled people. On International Women in Engineering Day, I’d like to remind business leaders that gender balance and greater diversity in the workforce makes commercial sense. The simple fact is we need more women engineers to fuel Devon’s economic growth.”

ICE is the oldest professional engineering association in the world with more than 7,000 members in the South West and over 95,000 worldwide. The Institution is featuring women from across the region in itsawareness campaign for INWED

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