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I attended one of most disadvantaged schools in Cleveland (now Tees Valley) in a hugely disadvantaged area of the country. From my school work experience I gained an apprenticeship at my local council. I have risen from being the first in my family to get a degree to becoming an Honorary Professor at the university I attended.
None of this would have been possible without the support of a careers officer or the funding of an apprenticeship. As a result of wishing to give others the same opportunities I had I now do lots to give back. I am the current holder of 2 national awards; STEM Learnings most active Ambassador and Apprenticeship Ambassador Network Apprenticeship Champion.
From my apprenticeship I have held significant jobs on important projects and gained ICE and CMI Chartered Fellowships as well as Freeman of the City of London for these roles. However, I have always been more interested in helping and supporting others though mentoring and coaching which I do lots of for my company and beyond. For this I have been recognised as the G4C Construction Excellence 2021 and Northeast Apprenticeship 2023 Mentor of the Year.
I strongly believe in sustainability in its truest and widest sense. As well as promoting all things environmental I have become well-known as a leader working in construction who has paved the way for many who have traditionally not thought this career was ‘for them’. I take the opportunity to feature as an engineering / construction role model wherever possible. Contrary to what many think I am not naturally an ‘out there’ person and I hate talking about myself. Despite this I pretty much say yes to anything which for a small amount of time I can help reach a wider audience and I encourage others. I aim to reach audiences others do not for example speaking to mothers about careers and business groups about undertaking social value to help little known local groups.
As someone who has been in the industry more than 30 years I have seen many minority persons drop out of STEM careers. Many still get pushed out because of the actions or inactions of others. I am very vocal on the need to make workplaces as inclusive as possible as they not only help individuals but also companies and society. I do this is several ways for example as co-chair of the SRM Gender Equality Group I personally championed the first menopause policy, the associated training has been used to show others how to do this. As an active LGBT+ Affinity Network member I encouraged majority allies to take part in campaigns and speak up. As Founding Chair of Engineering Together I have created several collaborative event series to help switch the dial and tackle subjects others wouldn’t, paving the way for normalising conversations about difficult subjects. I also speak and write to/for wide audiences including social mobility featuring in CIHT international magazine and WES Annual conference.
I have many people reach out when they are in difficult situations or are stuck so I am afraid rarely surprised by stories of unacceptable behaviour. I truly believe most people do not mean to be unkind and this societal issue needs a more pragmatic and proactive approach. Despite being (too) busy I set up #TheLine to tackle inappropriate language initially to educate those who offended whilst empowering victims to speak up with confidence. However, I expanded this to include education and more recently took a bold move to on-board the ‘majority’ head on with materials which aims to attract attention from those who do not normally engage / have no affinity with D&I. Why (I am asked all the time)? We need to empower and allies then we can educate those who don’t know any better. We need everyone to simply be kind. We cannot change by ‘preaching to the converted’.
I have been using my positions in many organisations to influence. Some examples are championed and embedded inclusive recruitment in a whole international suite of journals, ensured organisations include students outside the mainstream school system in careers advice and encouraged mature persons to become apprentices. I chair and sit on too many groups to mention but some notable high-profile roles include Trusteeships for ICE, WES and the High Tide Foundation.
My decades of volunteering and extra curricula activities have allowed me the opportunity to shift dials. The significance, wide-reaching and long-standing nature of this work has earned me the ICE Warren Medal, European WICE Lifetime in Engineering, Construction Excellence Northeast Lifetime Achievement, Tees Businesswomen Lifelong Inspiration and Tees Business Making a Difference awards.
I have tried to give back and do what I can to make the world a better place. Someone recently said ‘your courage to speak up and call things out when they aren’t right has been refreshing’.
For this I am loved by some and not-so by others. I am very lucky that I care little what others think.